INITIATIVES / TRANSPORTATION
From the North Shore Traffic Study to new technology in asphalt to more lane miles being paved on Staten Island, it’s been a good year in terms of looking down the road to traffic improvements.
Perhaps the news that will have the greatest effect on our road conditions in a long time was the announcement that our ‘Pave, baby, pave” campaign worked and the Mayor agreed to allocate an additional $242.1 million citywide to dramatically increase the amount of paving that could be done.
In a December 2014 op/ed BP Oddo called for a new “Marshall Plan” to address our roads, and the Mayor delivered. For Staten
Island this means we will see 125 more lane miles paved in the next two years than otherwise would have been. This investment will make up for the lack of investments in our roads during the last decade and allow us to start seeing a difference.
Some major roads were resurfaced in 2015, including New Dorp Lane, Targee Street, Arthur Kill Road, and more.
In other resurfacing news, the experiment BP Oddo asked DOT to conduct with asphalt rubber was a success. They have agreed to resurface additional streets with this product next year and continue to monitor its performance.
BP Oddo spent much of 2015 convincing city agencies to conduct a North Shore traffic study BEFORE the NY Wheel and Empire Outlets open.
The study will put strategies for transportation improvements across all modes (i.e., walking, ferry, bus, SIR, bicycle, auto, taxi, trucks, etc.) in motion, identifying and addressing existing/
longstanding transportation challenges, as well as the challenges and opportunities anticipated in the near future. The consultant will propose short-, mid- and long-term strategies.
As a direct result of the two Bus Summits hosted by Borough President Oddo in 2015, the Staten Island Comprehensive Bus Study is currently underway. It is examining all NYC Transit bus service on Staten Island and will possibly lead to changes in existing routes, and a marked overall improvement in the drive-time and the quality of bus service. The study will identify shifting travel trends, route inefficiencies, and emerging markets on Staten Island and will lead to an overhaul of routes and increase in service where needed based on actual 2015/2016 ridership. All this will be done with unprecedented customer input.
In addition to public workshops, MTA New York City Transit employees will also get input from bus customers at bus stops and on buses themselves. The goal is to include as many Staten Island bus riders as possible, and this can be accomplished by providing them with various opportunities to participate over several phases of the study. The study is expected to be completed in early 2016. Easily implementable recommendations can be put into action while the study is ongoing, while longer term recommendations may require additional planning and resources to fully implement.
“This study is unprecedented for Staten Island,” said Oddo. “The MTA is listening to our suggestions and want to make improvements based on our experiences.”
Beyond routing, MTA NYC Transit will also study customer satisfaction with the environment inside the buses, at bus stops and transferring between buses.
Ferry Service: Get On The Boat
Another victory for Staten Islanders: 24/7 every half hour ferry service. “The days of hour-long waits for a Staten Island Ferry are now over,” BP Oddo said. “I fought to pass this legislation to accomplish increased service two years ago and the law (Local Law 88) is now fully in effect.” The first phase of Local Law 88 went into effect in 2014, increasing service on the weekends. The final phases went into effect in 2015. In addition, the MTA stepped up and aligned both train and bus services with the new timetable.
The most significant impact is the overnight service every 30 minutes from both Whitehall and St. George, resulting in new, early-morning trips to weekday service, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. from each terminal, and additional departures on weekends, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Thirty-minute service will also be provided during holidays.
“Every Staten Islander has had that experience of missing the ferry and waiting an hour for the next one to pull in,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, understanding our pain. “Today, that’s a thing of the past.”
Not coincidentally, with all the new service improvements, ferry ridership is up, hitting nearly 22 million annually.
• Download our informational board on Ferry Service
Fast Ferry is not a new concept, it’s something we’ve talked about as a borough for years.
Providing a fast ferry to midtown is badly needed on Staten Island and BP Oddo realizes there is more than one way to move this along.
From the South Shore
Location, including sufficient parking, frequency and price point are key factors in success of any fast ferry for our South Shore, it all starts with finding a suitable location. This is something we have been doing on our end as well as engaging mayors from the neighboring New jersey towns of Perth Amboy and South Amboy to ensure enough ridership to make this a feasible solution for South Shore commuters.
The 5 Boro Plan
Inexplicably, Staten Island is NOT included in Phase 1 of the City’s 5 Boro Fast Ferry Plan.
To correct this wrong, BP Oddo wrote a letter to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen proposing the inclusion of St. George on the South Brooklyn route, which connects the Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Red Hook, and DUMBO with Pier 11 in Manhattan.
“Let’s be clear, the ideal is a new fast ferry situated that in such a way that the route would improve the commutes of the largest number of Staten Islanders.
We have fought for that… and still it’s not coming in 2017. Or 2018. The City can’t tell you when it’s coming, but what do know a South Brooklyn route is coming in 2017. It makes sense to use it to help some, admittedly some, Staten Islanders.
I believe ferry service can beget more ferry service. That is to say, achieving it somewhere on Staten Island makes it more likely we will get it in multiple locations once we show how successful it is.”
Staten Island and the Bronx are currently the only two boroughs without Citi Bike. BP Oddo has met with Citi Bike and discussed not only a potential route and stations for the program, but ideas for how to fund it. While this realization may be a few years out, please see an editorial that BP Oddo and Bronx BP Ruben Diaz submitted to the Daily news on the subject.
Despite record investment in new transportation infrastructure projects in our boroughs, transit equity continues to elude us in one very high-profile way. Combined, we represent nearly 2 million New Yorkers. Yet not a single Citi Bike terminal sits within our borders. The status quo on bike sharing in New York City is no longer tenable.
With bus and subway fares set to rise, it is incumbent upon this city to do what it can to provide more options for affordable transportation throughout the five boroughs. A Citi Bike membership — at just $155 per year — is not only a cost-effective means of transportation; it can help remove cars from our roads and ease often punishing congestion on mass transit.
Citi Bike has long endeavored to be a bike sharing system that truly represents the entire city. But that promise has yet to be realized. A glance at the company’s online map shows that, though bikes are plentiful in Manhattan as well as in the parts of Brooklyn and Queens closest to Manhattan — and even in Jersey City — the Bronx and Staten Island are ignored.
(For that matter, most of Brooklyn and Queens — the very places already underserved by subways and buses, where bike-sharing would make the biggest difference — are paid no mind, either.)
For Citi Bike to truly become an integral part of our city’s transit system, it must serve the entire city. To that end, it is time for City Hall to consider the potential of public funding for the bike share service.
Right now, Citi Bike is funded entirely through private funds and revenues generated by memberships. Though taxpayer assets such as street space have been used to further its expansion, not a penny of direct taxpayer funding has been granted to the program.
Contrast that with other forms of public transportation, which are publicly subsidized. Buses and subways get taxpayer money; commuter trains do; an expanded ferry network will as well.
If Citi Bike is genuinely going to be considered an important part of our public transportation network, it needs to be treated like one.
Private dollars will always be critical to the bike sharing system’s well-being, especially given the tremendous advertising potential these bikes hold for sponsors. But we can’t rely on corporate dollars alone; an infusion of public money is needed to kickstart expansion. That will inevitably draw new sponsors to the program, thanks to the thousands of new bikes that would be placed on the street in currently underserved, if not entirely unserved, areas.
If this new expansion proves successful, as we believe it is likely to be, the city might even get some return on its investment through a revenue-sharing agreement.
Great things are happening in each of our boroughs. The Bronx has seen new infrastructure investment and the development of thousands of new units of housing stock, while on Staten Island, the so-called “Core Four” North Shore projects are leading to a renaissance on the waterfront.
The private sector is creating jobs, we are attracting new visitors from all over the region to our world-class cultural institutions, eateries and other tourism destinations and there is a new buzz and excitement from those who are looking at our boroughs as an ideal place to live and raise a family.
Yet when it comes to the bike sharing program that so many have embraced, we are not even on the map.
It’s time to expand this service to the communities we serve, so that one might be able to ride from the Staten Island Ferry to Yankee Stadium, or any of the other amenities our boroughs host from any other point in the city.
Each borough is unique and the Citi Bike system that is developed should reflect the unique character and needs of each borough. Citi Bike in St. George will, and should, look different than Citi Bike in Mott Haven and Citi Bike in Times Square.
But the long freeze-out must end. We are committed to working with City Hall to developing the plan that best reflects the needs of our boroughs.