Blog Post by: Jacob Anbinder , on November 5, 2013
This is the final post in a series about the NYC mayoral elections on November 5, 2013.
But that doesn’t mean New York straphangers should give up hope of seeing transit improvements in the next four years.
Here are three transportation issues that would be relatively easy for the new mayor, whoever he is, to tackle:
Funding for the M.T.A. has long been a political pawn in Albany, New York, and politicians haven’t hesitated to divert money when they’ve deemed it necessary.
But a piece of legislation awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature could change all that.
The “transit lockbox bill” would make it illegal for the executive branch to divert funds from mass transit agencies across the state. If the legislature did so, the bill would require a “diversion impact statement” expressing the amount lost in terms of rider fares.
The lockbox bill passed the state legislature in June and was sent to the governor last Friday. Governor Cuomo hasn’t said if he will sign the bill. But if New York’s mayor-elect uses the bully pulpit to gin up support among city residents, it will be hard for Cuomo to refuse—and the entire city will stand to benefit.
The money the M.T.A. doesn’t get from Albany, it gets mainly from its riders. With a fare hike last March and another slated for 2015, riders have been hit particularly hard as of late.
This is why the new mayor should push for a subway fare that subsidizes local riders by “overcharging” visitors and tourists.
The subway already does this to a degree, with its $2.75 “SingleRide” ticket and unlimited monthly passes.
But these subsidies are modest compared to those in place in other cities. In London, riders who buy a single ticket for travel in the central city pay the equivalent of $7.18—more than double what daily commuters are charged.
The city government doesn’t set subway fares, but the next administration could team up with the M.T.A. for the specific purpose of issuing discount subway passes to city residents.
That would allow the M.T.A. to implement all the fare hikes it wants, without fear of protest from daily riders.
Walk down any New York street, and it won’t take long to see urban freight is an overlooked problem. Trucks sit double-parked, blocking traffic and releasing noxious fumes in a city hosting 300,000 deliveries every day.
In 2010, a pilot program led by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute sought to improve New York’s freight network by offering financial incentives to companies for scheduling deliveries between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The trial run was a tremendous success, ensuring shipments were on time and saving businesses 30 percent off the cost of delivery.
New York’s next mayor should make the RPI experiment a permanent city program, integrating it into a broader plan to make the city’s freight more efficient.
On the East River bridges, for example, the city could implement variable tolling to encourage trucks to take specific routes depending on traffic conditions, freeing up the rest of the road for commuters.
Even small changes like these will require time, energy and collaboration across New York’s political boundaries.
But in a campaign where voters have heard few practical transit solutions, these small changes are the very least the city deserves.
For more election-related issues, read about stop-and-frisk from blogger Jill Silos-Rooney and learn more about universal pre-K from policy associate Halley Potter.