BY COUNCILMAN DONOVAN RICHARDS
If you looked up the definition of “transit desert,” you might find a map of my City Council district, the 31st.
One subway line, the A, has the system’s worst on-line performance. We have some of the longest commutes in the nation, many starting on the Q5 in Laurelton, the Q77 in Springfield Gardens and the Q111 and Q113 in Rosedale before even getting to a subway station. There are two LIRR stops, priced up much higher than the subway, with one not even eligible for the railroad’s CityTicket program.
We deserve better. And I believe we can do better, but only if a smart program like the Move NY Fair plan wins approval in Albany.
That’s why I’m urging my Queens colleagues, some of whom have reacted skeptically to the Move NY proposal, to take another look at this ingenious plan developed by former DOT commissioner Sam Schwartz.
Sam’s plan is actually a boon for our borough, whether you’re a subway straphanger, a LIRR commuter, a driver or all three.
Here’s an overview of the benefits in the plan:
• Move NY lowers tolls by 45-48 percent on five crossings Queens drivers use daily. That’s worth repeating: The plan would LOWER tolls on the RFK Triboro, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Marine Parkway and Cross Bay bridges. The Bloomberg scheme did nothing of the kind. Meanwhile, tolls on the Queensboro would apply only to drivers going below 59th Street in Manhattan.
• Even before the toll changes go into effect, the Move NY Fair Plan would create new Bus Rapid Transit lines and add express bus and LIRR service, benefitting Queens.
• Express bus prices would drop $1 a ride – a $10 weekly savings for regular riders.
• LIRR prices would go down for city riders by making CityTicket discounts available at all times, not just on weekends. It finally would include the Far Rockaway station in the CityTicket program, a recommendation added at my request.)
• Finally, it would create a $375 million dedicated fund for road and bridge repair, another feature missing from the Bloomberg plan.
No one likes to pay more money just to get around town. I understand that. But what I don’t understand is why some officials dismiss the 87 percent of their constituents who are already paying ever-increasing tolls and fares in favor of the 13 percent who get free trips over the East River bridges.
Those 87 percent have already seen seven fare and toll increases since 2000, and they’ll face another 15 percent hike if the legislature doesn’t come up with a new funding stream like Move NY’s.
Meanwhile, drivers going over the East River haven’t paid a penny for nearly a century.
We’ve seen what happens when we neglect infrastructure in New York City, where the subways almost collapsed in the 1970s, and around the country. We’re too smart to let this happen to us again.