Quinn Ties Transit Growth to NYC’s Economic Health, Stops Short on Funding

Christine Quinn outlined her transit platform at a campaign event at LaGuardia Community College this morning. With a focus on Select Bus Service and ferries — elements of the transit system that the mayor can actually control to a large degree — Quinn’s proposals tie the expansion of transit to the city’s economic health. She also called for local control of the MTA.

Transit users in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have commute times that average 20 minutes longer than those in Manhattan, Quinn noted, echoing data from a 2009 report by the Center for an Urban Future. Most who commute for more than an hour make less than $35,000 a year.

Quinn said that by 2023 no New Yorker should spend more than an hour commuting in either direction. To that end, she unveiled a five-point plan called “Fair Ride NYC”:

  • Quinn says NYC should “be given control of the MTA,” and the mayor should have the authority to appoint the president of New York City Transit. She likened this proposal to mayoral control of city schools.
  • Quinn proposed the rollout of 10 new Select Bus Service routes in the next four years, with routes based on potential travel time savings and where the city sees potential for job growth. Quinn specifically called for SBS on Staten Island’s North Shore.
  • Ferry service should be expanded with stops at Atlantic Avenue, Red Hook, Astoria, Roosevelt Island, 91st Street, and Ferry Point Park in the Bronx. Quinn has been a big booster of the East River Ferry service that launched in 2011, which is subsidized directly by the city and requires much more public funding per passenger than subways and buses.
  • The MTA would extend Metro-North service to Penn Station, with new Bronx stops at Co-Op City, Parkchester, Morris Park, and Hunts Point. This plan is already in the works, and though it isn’t something she could control, as mayor Quinn would be in a position to counter opposition from Long Island politicos who don’t want to share space in Penn Station.
  • The fifth spoke of the plan would “bring targeted economic development strategies” to areas with the longest commute times. “It’s not just about getting people to their jobs,” said Quinn. “It’s also about bringing jobs to where people live.”

Unlike Select Bus Service, ferries, and transit-oriented development, where the mayor can affect real change, gaining mayoral control of the MTA would be an enormous lift, and is highly unlikely.

While Quinn’s platform recognizes the city’s transit system as the heart of its economy, at this point there is no mention of the fiscal health of the MTA itself. How Quinn plans to pay for her proposals is yet to be seen. (The SBS improvements would at least be very affordable in the context of the MTA capital program.) Quinn moved congestion pricing through the City Council in 2008 and says she still backs the concept, but hasn’t given road pricing the kind of full-throated backing that we’ve seen from fellow Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese.