On Staten Island, traffic congestion is both a way of life and a perennial complaint. Six of the 15 editorials in the Staten Island Advance this month have been about transportation, and the paper — and Island citizens and elected officials — regularly call for both better transit and better roads.
But lately, transportation policy on Staten Island has been moving in a counterproductive direction, and the borough’s elected officials are to blame.
After meeting with borough officials, NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stan Gee said this week that the agency will widen a 1.2-mile section of the Staten Island Expressway. But a project to extend the SIE bus lane to the Goethals Bridge has fallen out of the NYSDOT capital program; the lane will be extended only to Richmond Ave. The agency has already opened the bus lane to cars with at least two occupants during peak periods, and hasn’t publicly documented how the change is affecting bus commuters.
The city has gotten its share of pressure as well. This week Borough President James Molinaro held a rally calling for wider roads (some residents used the opportunity to call for more sidewalks). Meanwhile, many of the borough’s city, state, and federal elected officials are opposing a potentially transformative NYCDOT plan for a median busway on Hylan Blvd. City Councilman James Oddo recently called bike lanes on Staten Island an example of “misguided priorities.”
These are poor decisions that will worsen transit service and make it harder to get around on foot and by bicycle, driving borough transit riders back into their cars. As such, they probably won’t help traffic in the short run and certainly won’t fix congestion in the long run, especially with more traffic projected to come to Staten Island with the opening of a wider replacement Goethals Bridge. The Goethals replacement study shows that the most effective traffic-busting measures are transit improvements, like an SIE bus lane (or bus/carpool lane that requires at least 3 occupants in a vehicle) stretching from the Goethals to the Verrazano and beyond.