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Mayoral candidates outline the ways they would improve the lives of commuters

Commuters in the city (Getty)

Commuters in the city (Getty) Credit: Commuters in the city (Getty)

The MTA is a ward of the state, but its buses run on the city’s streets and its trains below sidewalks through tunnels.

The mayor has a limited role in the MTA’s operations, with control of four seats on the agency’s 23-member board, which is outnumbered by the six seats the governor controls.

We asked the candidates running for mayor how they will prioritize transit, help riders get around faster, and improve service for the millions of people who travel on the system each day.

(Anthony Weiner’s campaign could not make the candidate available for an interview despite repeated requests.)

MTA Governance/Funding

Christine Quinn
Wants to get the state to let the mayor pick the majority of MTA board members and the head of NYC Transit. “It’s something I’m going to make a priority and I’m going to expend political capital in Albany to get it to be a reality. It won’t happen overnight but we’re going to make sure it does happen.”

Bill de Blasio
“Try and change the federal approach to mass transit funding and get the federal government much more deeply into the mass transit business again. …. Take the very good model of what the mayor did on gun control, nationally, but build it out in the direction of areas of more economic interest, like mass transit.”

Bill Thompson
“Commuter tax being restored in its old form, just for mass transit … that would generate about $750 million. You couple that with increase of registration fees for automobiles based on weight, there’s another billion dollars.”

John Liu
Increase city’s share of MTA capital budget by $100 million. “It’s ridiculous the city doesn’t even contribute 1% of our city budget to mass transit. That’s ludicrous. ... If the city can contribution more to mass transit, it does mean a reduction in vehicular traffic.”

Joe Lhota
“There’s absolutely no funding for the [MTA’s five-year capital plan] that starts in 2015. I’m committed to participating as mayor and providing a certain dollar amount — I can’t tell you what the dollar amount is.”

John Catsimatidis
“Instead of yelling and screaming and creating an inspector general for the police department, how about a real inspector general for the MTA to find out why we’re paying so much tolls and how come our subway rates are going up.” (Ed. note: The MTA has had an inspector general since 1983.)

George Mcdonald
“I have endorsed Gridlock Sam Schwartz’s fair toll plan [for East River bridges]. I like the idea to raise $1.5 billion to get more money into mass transit.”

“The mayor of the City of New York should be responsible for a portion of the MTA that relates to the City of New York: the transit authority and the bridges.”

Bus rapid transit

“I want to do 10 additional bus rapid transit or Select Bus routes as quickly as I can as mayor, so we’re going to put it out there as a priority for the DOT and go to the MTA and say, Let’s do this together and let’s do it quickly.”

de Blasio
“On [Select Bus Service], we’re talking about a very cost-efficient kind of spending and one that helps us prompt the MTA to go farther in terms of serving outer- borough neighborhoods. It would be a good use of modest capital dollars.”

“Given the fact that the mayor has a number of appointees to the MTA board, you should expect to see my appointees being more aggressive about things like
Select Bus services and express bus services.”

“There are parts of certain commercial corridors throughout the city that are congested that I think are ripe for Select Bus Service. It just has to be done right. You got to have community buy in. You can’t just impose it. ... The city should not thumb their noses at small businesses who have complained about the loss of parking space.”

“There’s much more control of the bus service of the MTA by the City of New York, dedicating a lane of traffic so that the buses can move faster ... and they’re a good idea. We need to do a better job at communicating with the public how to get on and off Select Bus Service.”

“I believe in [Select Bus Service] because that’s an immediate solution. That’s a short-range plan. We should do that almost immediately.”

Proposed adding bus rapid transit down highway medians and “reducing bus fares in neighborhoods where they’re called ‘transportation deserts.’”

Transit ideas

Add ferry service to Manhattan and between outer boroughs. “We need to re-embrace the rivers as our great blue highways, but we need to do it in a way where we’re not just bringing people back and forth from the other boroughs to Manhattan.”

De Blasio
Bring more Metro-North stops to the Bronx. “Thinking about what it would do to increase mass transit options for folks in eastern Bronx, and particularly the huge number of folks in Co-Op City who are underserved by mass transit, that’s the kind of thing I think should be a major mayoral priority.”

Allow riders to pay base subway fare to use Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North within city limits. “It creates different transit options for New Yorkers within the city on weekdays.”

Toll Manhattan bridges for non-city residents. “If the commuter tax is not going to work, let’s at least ask people who come from out of the city across the bridges into Manhattan and add to the congestion to pay their fair share.”

Expand the subway system, such as bringing the R train to Staten Island. “It’s the mayor’s job to make proposals. ... Building a consensus that extending rail lines that we have now is in the public’s best interest is what needs to happen first. As you’re doing that, then you try to figure out how the funding would work.”

“There’s several names for an aboveway — you can call it a monorail system, you can call it jetway. ... You put it right down the middle of the highway.”

“I’d get rid of the pedicabs. ... They’re horrible."


“I’m supportive of the bike lanes and I think we want to keep that plan moving forward. ... That [bike share] program has just skyrocketed off the charts and it’s something that I hear from all over the place from New Yorkers that they want more of. I want to try to get some more sponsorship for it so we don’t have to do it with taxpayer money."

De Blasio
“Bike share has been a success” and wants it expanded outside Manhattan. On bike lanes, “there have been times when the implementation was not done in a fashion that was as consultative as it might have been. I think we can fix that easily enough. But I absolutely agree with expanding bike lanes much more deeply into the outer boroughs.”

“If [Citi Bike] continues to work, I’d want to see that expanded.”

“I’ve been a supporter of bike lanes, but at the same point we need to make sure they’re done in conjunction with communities. ... There are still bike lanes that are dropped on communities.”

“A lot of money has gone into building this [bicycling] infrastructure and I would leave it alone for the most part.” Liu would remove bike lanes “if the current mix is not the right balance” with parking and traffic lanes. “There are parts of Brooklyn and Queens that seem to fit that category.”

“I’m a big believer that our streets are for cars and for buses and for trucks and for emergency vehicles and bicycles and pedestrians. ... Not only do we need to make some of these [street] infrastructure changes, we need to have enhanced communication with the public about what the mission is and what the vision is. We haven’t had that.”

“There’s room for bicycles, but I believe we can’t create the congestion … the way the bike lanes are being constructed.” (Quote from June 19 transportation forum)

“I’m in favor of them. I think they’re a large part of the transportation needs of New York City in the future.”

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