Bloomberg pledges free buses, MTA shakeup if reelected
In his campaign’s first major policy announcement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg Monday unveiled a 33-point MTA plan that includes making crosstown bus rides free in Manhattan.
“The MTA needs to do more to plan for our future, much more,” said Bloomberg at a press conference. “You realize just how far our mass transit system has fallen behind.”
- F express service and V local trains running into Brooklyn.
- Digital bus arrival notices in real time on half the city’s routes by 2013.
- More frequent evening bus service using smaller vehicles.
- New trolley service in Brooklyn and Queens. The mayor also promised to streamline the MTA, much as he did with the city schools.
“We do have the bull pulpit and four votes (on the MTA board) and we plan to use those,” he said. A MTA spokesman said the agency welcomed the opportunity to work with Bloomberg in making it “more efficient and transparent.” Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign, said: “There’s a mixture of hope and skepticism. It’s a standard to hold (a mayor) against.” Last week, Bloomberg's lead over Democratic challenger Bill Thompson narrowed to 10 percentage points in a Quinnipiac poll. Thompson said the transit plan was ridden with “empty promises and stolen ideas.” Transit experts generally supported the plan, but noted that some of the ideas had kicked around for years, come from independent planners or would be impossible to implement quickly. Bloomberg pledged to execute one of the proposals -- rapid bus service along First and Second avenues in Manhattan -- when he first ran for mayor in 2001. Then, there’s the matter of paying for it. “It is not all going to happen because it all takes money we don’t have,” said Andrew Albert, a non-voting MTA board member. A Bloomberg campaign advisor said the proposal would result in minimal costs and save the MTA $247 million by shedding unnecessary real estate and consolidating the railroads and bus operations.
As for waiving fares on crosstown buses, Bloomberg said that would be a ‘trivial” expense because most riders now transfer from subways or other buses.
Experts from the Regional Planning Association, which conceived of the crosstown bus plan, said the plan would need to be carefully monitored to prevent it from expanding too broadly.