Happy 57th Birthday to Brooklyn Public Transportation
The success of public transportation can be traced back to one of the late President Lyndon Johnson’s greatest accomplishments which continues benefiting many Americans today. On July 9th, 1964 he signed the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 into law. Subsequently this has resulted in the investment over time of several hundred billion dollars into public transportation.
Millions of Americans including many residing in Kings County today on a daily basis utilize various public transportation alternatives. They include local and express bus, ferry, jitney, light rail, subway and commuter rail services. All of these systems use less fuel and move far more people than conventional single occupancy vehicles. Most are funded with your tax dollars thanks to President Johnson.
Depending upon where you live, consider the public transportation alternative. Try riding a local or express bus, commuter van, ferry, light rail, commuter rail or subway.
Up until the 60s — I remember bus drivers made change and drove the bus at the same time. Nobody would dare bring soda or food on the bus or leave any litter behind.
Fast forward to today. Fortunately we have the MTA and its various operating agencies, including NYC Transit subway, bus and Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road and MTA Bus.
Chartered by the State Legislature in 1965 as the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority, it was created to purchase and operate the bankrupt Long Island Rail Road. The MCTA changed its name to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968 when it took over operations of the NYC Transit Authority. Previously, in 1953 the old NYC Board of Transportation passed on control of the municipal subway system, including all its assets to the newly created NYCTA. In 1968, the MTA also acquired through lease the New York State commuter trackage of Penn Central’s Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines, contracting their subsidized operation to Penn Central. In 1976, they became part of Conrail. In 1983 the Metro-North Railroad was formed to take over all of Conrail’s New York State commuter operations. The MTA took over all service in 1983, as the Metro North Railroad.
The ancestors to MTA Bus that operated in NYC were eight private bus operators. These included Steinway Bus and Queens Transit, (which combined to become Queens Surface Bus Corporation along with Green Bus, Jamaica Bus and Triboro Coach. They all provided both local service in Queens and express to Manhattan).
Kings County has Command Bus (previously Pioneer Bus that ran one local route from the Kings Highway East 16th Street subway station to Mill Basin) along with six express routes from various neighborhoods such as Starrett City, Canarsie, Mill Basin, Flatlands, Gerritsen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Flatbush and Midwood to either downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan. Another private bus operator — Metro Apple previously provided similar services from Sunset Park, Bay Ridge and Bensenhurst to Manhattan with no public subsidies before going out of business.
Over ten years ago, NYC took over the franchises and entered into long term leases for utilization of the facilities owned by these operators. The City between 2005 and 2006 entered into an agreement with the MTA transferring their routes and equipment to the newly created MTA Bus. All of these private bus operators previously received capital and operating assistance from both the NYC Department of Transportation and New York State.
There is also New Jersey Transit, Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) subway, NYC DOT Staten Island Ferry and NYC Economic Development Corporation Private Ferry operators.
Using MTA Metro Cards provides free transfers between the subway and bus. This has eliminated the old two fare zones making public transportation an even better bargain. Purchasing a weekly or monthly MTA subway/bus pass reduces the cost per ride and provides virtually unlimited trips.
The ability to travel from home to workplace, school, shopping, entertainment, medical, library etc. is a factor when moving to a new neighborhood. Economically successful communities are not 100 percent dependent on automobiles as the sole means of mobility. Seniors, students, low and middle income people need these transportation alternatives. Investment in public transportation today contributes to economic growth, employment and a stronger economy. Dollar for dollar, it is one of the best investments we can make.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian, and writer, based in Brooklyn Heights.
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