Advocates’ 2 Cents: NYC Must Pony Up Transit Dollars

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As Election Day draws closer, local television channel NY1 has been asking prominent New Yorkers for their “2 cents” on Mayor Bloomberg’s record. Last week the channel focused on transit, asking advocates and others to comment on the mayor’s campaign promises and his record. Tri-State’s Veronica Vanterpool applauded the mayor for a “green makeover” of city streets that has made it easier for bus riders, as well as pedestrians and cyclists, to get around. But she said that without increased city aid to the MTA and state actions like bus lane camera legislation, the transit system could quickly backslide.

These ended up being the major themes in NY1’s cross-section of advocates. All nine of the interviewed New Yorkers said that the city needs to contribute more money to the MTA’s capital program. The Drum Major Institute’s John Petro added that the mayor should do more to win state and federal transit aid. And Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul White said that the mayor should get behind pending legislation that would increase oversight of public authorities, including the MTA.

But most advocates applauded the mayor for advancing a green transportation policy and said his “Plan to Reform Mass Transit” included smart projects. For example, Regional Plan Association’s Jeff Zupan and Bill Henderson of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee praised the mayor’s proposals for free crosstown buses and expanded CityTicket.

It wasn’t all agreement. Denise Richardson of the General Contractors’ Association praised the city-funded extension of the No. 7 line as an example of how transit and economic development were linked. City Councilwoman Gale Brewer disagreed and said the city should fund maintenance of the system instead. Journalist Michael Harris argued that the mayor’s tenure has been marked by more talk than action. And Roger Touissant, the head of the city transit workers’ union and longtime mayoral foil, minced no words when he called Bloomberg’s tenure an “abject failure.”

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