THE COMMUTE: Previously we looked at the historical perspective of previous plans to toll the free East River bridges and briefly discussed the Move NY Plan. Now let’s delve a little more deeply into the Move NY Plan.
Its supposed goals, other than providing needed mass transit funding, is to:
- Reduce congestion in midtown and lower Manhattan.
- Equalize traffic on all the East River crossings
- Increase the use of mass transit by getting drivers to switch modes.
Let’s examine each of these goals and probable effects:
- The plan pretends traffic congestion in the Manhattan Central Business District (CBD) is the only congestion that matters. Move NY only vaguely discusses time of day discounts when it is a lesser problem. No one should pay extra at 3am to reduce traffic congestion. Congestion on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) is often greater than that in Manhattan. This plan would encourage current FDR Drive users destined for northern Manhattan and points north to switch to the BQE because of the reduced RFK Bridge toll, shifting congestion from the FDR Drive to the BQE — not reducing it.
- Where is the data that shows the toll crossings to midtown and lower Manhattan are underutilized? Of course more use the free crossings because they account for 79 percent of the road capacity. How much excess capacity is available on the pay crossings during peak hours to enable vehicles to switch to them? Little if any. There are only vague promises that speeds in Manhattan would increase by 20 percent.
- In order for drivers to shift to mass transit, there must be available capacity. Subway ridership is at an all time high since World War II and we are providing less service now; many lines are already over capacity. Overcrowding is the biggest cause of subway delays according to MTA. We can only expect trains to be slower and more crowded with additional riders. Under Bloomberg’s plan, the only additional mass transit service promised into Manhattan was an extension of the now defunct B71 through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, operating at 30-minute headways. The promises of service improvements now are even more vague.
What Will Probably Happen
Those who drive daily into Manhattan will continue to drive and will pay more, and congestion will not be significantly reduced. Many can afford to pay more, but as Queens City Councilman Rory Lancman stated, many cannot, especially if their destination is not Midtown.
There are no assurances that buses will become less crowded, or will operate more often or more reliably. Nor are there assurances that new routes will be added at reasonable headways, or that existing routes will be studied and revamped.
Service levels currently are based on existing crowding levels. Will that change? Will bus service be improved to attract additional patronage? We have no assurances the MTA will change the way it thinks about providing bus service.
They will continue to ignore: Car services as a barometer that bus routes and service are deficient, and increased ridership at least partially offsetting additional operating costs if routes operated at better headways and more reliably and made better connections. Move NY does not provide for additional facilities for you to leave your vehicle to transfer to mass transit into the central city.
Approving Move NY is too big a step without assurances that transit service in every part of the city would improve. Vague promises of a Utica Avenue subway are meaningless. So vague that one report shows Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed route as an extension from the Fulton Street line and another from Eastern Parkway.
Giving the MTA a blank check that can be used for more megaprojects such as East Side Access or to benefit the suburbs is just dumb. We have been lied to far too many times before. How many times have we been promised a Second Avenue Subway? Hopefully we learned our lesson.
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).
Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work. Their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.