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Transit groups demand pols support congestion pricing

July 11, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Transit advocates say congestion pricing could raise money to repair the subway system. The picture shows the D train station entrance on New Utrecht and 18th avenues. Eagle photo By Paula Katinas
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With an eye on the political primaries coming up in September, a group of transit advocacy organizations introduced a transportation agenda and announced plans to send the list of items to everyone running for office.

The policy statement, called the Transportation and Equity state agenda, was released on Tuesday. The organizations behind it are: the Riders Alliance, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York League of Conservation Voters, Regional Plan Association, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, StreetsPAC, Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Chief among the items on the list is a call for political candidates to support congestion pricing to pay for subway and bus improvements. Under congestion pricing, motorists entering Manhattan south of 60th Street would pay a toll.

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The funds raised by congestion pricing would go to pay for MTA’s Fast Forward project, a plan unveiled in the spring to modernize the city’s subway and bus systems during the next 15 years. Fast Forward would replace old, outdated subway signals, redesign the city’s bus network and make most of the subway stations wheelchair-accessible. 

John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, said transportation is going to be a big issue in the Sept. 13 primaries and in the Nov. 7 general election.

“These days, no one should be able to run for office in New York without telling their constituents how they’re going to fix the subway system and make buses more reliable. This transportation agenda is a ready-made package that every candidate for state-level office should adopt, and then we the people have to hold them to their promises when they’re in office,” he said in a statement.

The agenda also calls for state legislation to give the New York City Department of Transportation the discretion to install speed cameras on city streets. Under current law, the city needs the state’s permission.

Transit advocates said the cameras would help protect riders from being hit by cars while walking or biking to and from subway stations and bus stops.

“New York can’t continue to be a world class city if we squander this valuable space by handing it over to cars. We know what it takes to make our streets safer, more efficient and more equitable for all users, but it will require leadership from elected officials, a commitment to proven solutions, and critically, an end to the deference to drivers,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. 

Other items on the to-do list include safeguarding transit funding in a lockbox, public accounting for all MTA assets and fixing Penn Station. 

The agenda is needed because the city’s transit system is in crisis, according to transportation advocates. In January, the on-time performance of subway trains was 58 percent. In June, a portion of the ceiling collapsed at the busy Borough Hall subway station in Brooklyn. And the city’s buses are slower than in any other major U.S. city, advocates said. 

“Public transportation is the backbone of our city, but for too long the health of our transit system has been neglected,” said Jaqi Cohen, campaign coordinator of the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “With this agenda, we hope to inspire New York State’s policy makers to lead the way towards better, more accessible, and more affordable public transportation for the millions of New Yorkers who depend on subway, bus, and Access-A-Ride service each day.” 

The agenda will be sent to candidates for governor, state Senate and Assembly.


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