BIG CHANGES TO YOUR COMMUTE

We’ll tell you about the new transit plan that’s actually working, bike lanes, the MTA’s multi-billion dollar plan to save the subway, and more.

Aired on October 31, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

NEW YORK TRANSIT APPEARS TO BE ON THE CUSP OF A TRANSFORMATION.

TO START WITH, THERE IS THE $51.5 BILLION CAPITAL PLAN RECENTLY ANNOUNCED BY THE MTA.

THE PLAN SET TO KICK OFF NEXT YEAR IS THE LARGEST CAPITAL PLAN IN THE MTA'S HISTORY AND PROMISES TO INVEST BILLIONS IN THE CITY'S SUBWAYS, BUSES AND COMMUTER RAIL LINE OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

AND THEN THERE ARE THE DRAMATIC CHANGES TO COMMUTING IN NEW YORK THAT ARE ALREADY UNDERWAY SUCH AS THE RAPID EXPANSION OF BICYCLE LINES ACROSS THE FIVE BOROUGHS.

AN EXPANSION PUT INTO THE SPOTLIGHT DUE TO THE ALARMING RISE IN CYCLING DEATHS THIS YEAR.

ALSO A RENEWED FOCUS ON THE CITY'S BUS NETWORK, A COMPONENT THAT, ACCORDING TO TRANSIT ADVOCATES, HAS LONG BEEN UNDERSERVED.

THE RECENT SUCCESS OF THE 14th STREET BUS WAY PROGRAM, WHICH BANS CARS FROM MOST OF THE BUSY CROSSTOWN CORRIDOR, HAS OFFICIALS CALLING FOR MORE OF THE SAME.

SO WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING AROUND THE CITY EASIER SMOOTHER AND FASTER, THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF AMBITION.

BUT AS ALWAYS WITH NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT, THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS.

SO JOINING US NOW TO DECIPHER IT ALL IS VIN BAR OWN, TRANSFER REPORTER AT A.M. NEW YORK.

SO LET'S START WITH THE BIGGEST TOPIC AND THAT IS, OF COURSE, THAT BIG, BIG, BIG NUMBER, $51.5 BILLION.

RIGHT.

YEAH.

SO, YEAH, FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW, THAT IS THE SPENDING BLUEPRINT FOR THE MTA OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

EVERY FIVE YEARS THEY PUT OUT A SPENDING PLAN FOR ALL OF THEIR MAJOR NEW PROJECTS.

SO THIS ONE REALLY FOCUSES ON THE CITY.

THE MAJORITY OF THAT MONEY IS GOING INTO SUBWAY SYSTEM, GOING INTO THE BUSES IN TERMS OF NEW SIGNALS.

SO WE WILL BE REPLACING A MAJORITY OF THE OLD SIGNALS ON THE SYSTEM.

EVERYONE KNOWS, IS FAMILIAR WITH THE TERM SIGNAL FAILURE, RIGHT?

OF COURSE.

WE WOULD BE MODERNIZING THOSE SIGNALS WITH A COMPUTER EQUIVALENT.

AND WE'D ALSO BE SPENDING BILLIONS ON MAKING SUBWAYS MORE ACCESSIBLE.

BUT THERE ARE TWO BIG PROBLEMS, TWO BIG QUESTIONS I SHOULD SAY.

ONE IS WILL THE MTA GET THE FUNDING TO SUPPORT THE PLAN, AND, TWO, IS CAN THEY ACTUALLY GET THE WORK DONE IN A REASONABLE TIME IN FIVE YEARS.

OF COURSE.

AND JUST ONE MORE TIME FOR THE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT HAVE FORGOTTEN, WHO IS GOING TO APPROVE THAT FUNDING?

WELL, IT'S GOING TO COME THROUGH A VARIETY OF SOURCES.

THE GOVERNOR IS EFFECTIVELY IN CONTROL OF THE MTA, RIGHT.

SO HE IS GOING TO PROVIDE -- HE PLEDGED TO PROVIDE 3 BILLION TOWARDS IT, HE IS ASKING THE CITY FOR 3 BILLION.

OF COURSE, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO PROVIDE A CHUNK OF THAT MONEY.

WE ARE NOT SURE WHERE THE ADMINISTRATION STANDS ON TRANSIT.

THEY HAVE NOT BEEN FRIENDLY TO TRANSIT.

SO THAT'S A QUESTION MARK RIGHT NOW.

ALL RIGHT.

LET'S SAY MOVING ON FROM THE BUDGET THAT THEY PUT FORWARD TO DEMAND WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THE MTA, OF COURSE, WE HEARD HE WAS GOING TO BE LEAVING, THEN HE SAID HE WAS COMING BACK AND STAYING.

WHAT'S GOING ON WITH HIM AND THE DIRECTION HE IS TRYING TO LEAD THIS ORGANIZATION?

THIS SEEMS TO BE REFLECTIVE OF A LARGER ISSUE AT THE MTA WHICH IS PEOPLE LIKE BUYFORD WHO IS ARE TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND MOVE THE MTA IN A POSITIVE -- IN A FORWARD MANNER.

THEY KEEP GETTING HELD UP IN THIS BUREAUCRACY THAT IS THE MTA, OUTSIDE PRESSURE FROM THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, THE TRANSIT PRESIDENT, ANDY BIFORD, WHO RUNS THE SUBWAYS AND BUSES SUBMITTED A LETTER OF RESIGNATION.

HE WITHDREW IT.

HE TOLD THE REPORTERS AND PUBLIC THAT HE HAD CONCERNS THAT WERE ADDRESSED.

WE NEVER GOT ANY DETAILS ON WHAT THE CONCERNS WERE.

BUT IT IS A BIG PROBLEM AT THE MTA WHERE THEY HAVE AMBITIOUS PEOPLE COMING IN, YOUNGER PEOPLE, PEOPLE LIKE BIFORD AT THE EFFECTIVE LEVEL WHO FEEL STYMIED AND STUCK.

OF COURSE WE HAVE SEEN ALMOST A TURNSTILE, IF YOU WILL, OF PEOPLE OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, I GUESS PERHAPS GETTING EXHAUSTED BY THE SAME ISSUE.

BUT SO TO CONTINUE MORE WITH TRANSIT, OF COURSE THE BUSES.

THAT'S A REALLY BIG ISSUE.

A LOT OF PEOPLE SAID THE BUSES ARE UNDERFUNDED, THEY ARE PROBLEMATIC, TOO SLOW, ET CETERA, AND NOW WE HAVE BUS WAYS.

FIRST OF ALL, THE 14th STREET BUS WAY, WAS THAT REALLY AS SUCCESSFUL AS SOME ADVOCATES SAID IT WAS?

SO THE 14th STREET BUS WAY IS RELATIVELY NEW.

IT JUST LAUNCHED IN THE BEGINNING OF OCTOBER.

SO FAR IT DOES ACTUALLY LOOK TO BE A BIG SUCCESS.

RIGHT NOW BUS SPEEDS HAVE INCREASED BY ABOUT 30%. RIDERSHIP HAS BUMPED UP.

SO IT SEEMS LIKE RIDERS ARE NOTICING IT.

I WAS ON THE BUS THE OTHER DAY AND A WOMAN SAID UNSOLICITED TO ME THAT IT WAS AMAZING.

I NEVER HEARD THAT WORD TO DESCRIBE THE BUS.

RIGHT.

SO IT SEEMS TO BE WORKING.

THE BIG QUESTION NOW IS WHETHER OR NOT THE CITY CAN MAINTAIN THE EFFECTIVENESS OF IT ONCE THEY START PULLING AWAY POLICE OFFICERS.

SO WE'LL FIND OUT IN A FEW MONTHS TIME ON THAT FRONT.

THEN YOU HAVE ADVOCATES AND SOME ELECTED OFFICIALS SAYING WE NEED DO THIS IN OTHER PLACES.

OF COURSE.

WE HEARD THAT FOR SOME BUSY CROSSTOWN THOROUGHFARES, CORRECT?

YES.

RIGHT NOW IT SEEMS LIKE THE MOST NATURAL PLACE IS TO GO FROM 14th STREET TO 34th STREET OR 42nd STREET.

THOSE WERE TWO STREETS FLOATED BY THE SPEAKER, CORY JOHNSON, AND THE BUS SYSTEM, IT MOVES 2 MILLION PEOPLE A DAY IN THE CITY.

IT'S NOTHING TO LAUGH AT.

IT'S SOMETHING THAT REALLY NEEDS INVESTMENT ESPECIALLY AS THE CITY TRIES TO MOVE TO BECOME MORE SUSTAINABLE, GET PEOPLE OUT OF CARS.

YOU NEED TO HAVE RELIABLE BUS AND SUBWAY SERVICE.

OF COURSE, SPEAKING OF GETTING PEOPLE OUT OF CARS, THE EXPANSION OF THE BIKE LANES.

NOW, WE ALSO HAVE SEEN AN INCREASE IN CYCLIST DEATHS IN THE CITY.

SO HOW IS THAT AFFECTING THE INSU URGENCY FOR MORE LBIKE LANES.

IT WAS A BIG COMPONENT OF THE VISION ZERO.

THEY MAKE THE STREET SAFER FOR CYCLISTS AND DRIVERS AND PEDESTRIANS AS WELL.

SO WHAT WE HAVE SEEN THIS YEAR IS AN UNFORTUNATE UPTICK IN CYCLING DEATHS.

THE CITY SEEMS TO BE BLAMING THAT ON A GROWING CYCLING RATE AND MORE INDUSTRIAL PARTS OF BROOKLYN WHERE A LOT OF THE FATALITIES HAVE OCCURRED, AND THEN ALSO AN INCREASE IN BIG VEHICLES AND TRUCKS MAKING DELIVERIES.

SO THEY HAVE, IN REACTION TO THIS INCREASE IN CYCLING DEATHS THIS YEAR, THEY HAVE PLEDGED TO INSTALL MORE PROTECTIVE BIKE LANES SEPARATED BY CARS OR BY BOLLARDS, PLASTIC BOL LARDS, UP FROM 20 MILES TO 30 MILES.

AND WE ARE WAITING TO SEE HOW THAT WORKS, IF THEY GET TO THAT 30-MILE MARK.

BUT THERE IS A LOT OF CONCERNS BIGGER THAN THAT AND THINK ABOUT BUILDING OUT CYCLE WAYS LIKE THE WEST SIDE GREENWAY OR THE EAST RIVER PATHS WHERE CYCLISTS ARE MUCH FARTHER SEPARATED FROM TRAFFIC.

THEY ARE NOT INTERACTING WITH THE TRAFFIC RALT ALL.

WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

COULDN'T LET YOU GO WITHOUT -- THAT WAS SOMETHING THE MTA WANTED TO FOCUS ON.

HOW BIG OF A PROBLEM IS THAT?

THE MTA, THEIR COLLECTION OF FARE VISION DATA IS STILL A LITTLE FLAWED.

IT SEEMS TO BE COSTING AROUND $225 225 MILLION A YEAR.

IT SEEMS TO BE GOING UP THIS YEAR ACCORDING TO THEIR STILTS.

THEY ARE TRYING TO CUT DOWN ON IT.

AND PART OF THAT PROCESS IS HIRING A HUGE NUMBER OF NEW POLICE OFFICERS.

500 NEW POLICE OFFICERS, PUTTING THEM IN THE SUBWAY SYSTEM, PUTTING THEM IN THE BUS SYSTEM TO POLICE THAT, TO POLICE OTHER SO-CALLED QUALITY OF LIFE PROBLEMS LIKE HOMELESSNESS AND THAT HAS BEEN A BIG -- THAT HAS BEEN A CONTROVERSIAL POINT AT THE MTA.

A LOT OF ADVOCATES FEEL LIKE ADDING COPS IS NOT THE ANSWER TO THESE PROBLEMS AND THE MTA IS TRYING TO WADE THROUGH THIS AND FIGURE OUT WHAT'S THE RIGHT APPROACH BECAUSE THEY ARE GOING THROUGH A FINANCIAL CRISIS AT THE AUTHORITY RIGHT NOW AND ADDING COPS COSTS MONEY, TOO, JUST AS FAIR VISION COST THE MTA MONEY.

IT'S A DELICATE BALANCE.

WE ALWAYS APPRECIATE YOUR REPORTING AND HELPING US UNDERSTAND THIS DELICATE BALANCE FROM THE MTA AND HOPEFULLY LETTING US KNOW THAT OUR ABILITY TO GET AROUND THE CITY WILL BE A LITTLE BIT SMOOTHER.

AS ALWAYS, YES.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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