OUR TRANSIT PLATFORM

POLICY CONTRIBUTORS, WRITERS, & EDITORS

POLICY CONTRIBUTORS

  • Danny Pearlstein, Riders Alliance
  • Caitlin Pierce, Riders Alliance


WRITERS

  • Alan Abraham
  • Chana Sternberg
  • Ilana Novick
  • Michael Sutherland
  • Zarin Farook
  • Josie Steuer Ingall
  • Rami Sigal
  • Elijah Rockhold
  • Angelina Atieh
  • Meg Jones
  • Lynn Yellen
  • Virginia Hart


EDITORS

  • Zara Nasir
  • Alan Abraham
  • Michael Sutherland
  • Chana Sternberg
  • José Garcia
  • Elijah Rockhold
  • Virginia Hart
  • Meg Jones
A VISION FORWARD

All New Yorkers deserve quality, free or low-cost, accessible, and sustainable public transportation that meets their daily needs. Public transit is vital to all aspects of life in New York City, and millions of people use our subways, buses, bike lanes, and accessible rides to get to where they need to go. Yet historic disinvestment in sustainable and accessible public transit has led to our transportation system to be slower, less reliable, and lagging in addressing accessibility and sustainability. Because of the work of transit advocates and everyday New Yorkers, there have been some important transit victories, including fair fares, a streets master plan, and more bike and bus lanes. But more commitment, investment and political courage is needed to massively improve the city’s transit system and make it work for all New Yorkers. The City must focus on better street and signal design, improving bus service and networks, and increasing affordability, accessibility, sustainability, and connectivity.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

1) Improve street and signal design for better bus and public transit

Street design in New York City has primarily been designed with individual car-owners in mind. However, buses — which are often the only public transportation available for working-class New Yorkers, New Yorkers of color, and New Yorkers living in the outer boroughs, and are essential in getting to and from work and school — are often pushed to the side, according to the Where We Live report. It’s time New York City faces the reality that our buses are vitally important and necessary, and adopts and enacts policies that reflect that.

1A. Fully fund and implement the Streets Master Plan legislation

Problem: There are hundreds of miles of bus lanes, bike lanes, intersections, and transit infrastructure in the city, with no clear or regular way of assessing this infrastructure to improve public transportation for New Yorkers. Attention to pedestrian needs has withered, and safety and lethal traffic accidents continues to be of concern for many pedestrians and bikers. There is a clear need for reassessing city planning and transit funds every five years. To respond to that need, in 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed new “Streets Master Plan” legislation into law that requires the Department of Transportation to issue and implement a citywide transportation plan every five years. However, this plan remains ineffectual without funding and implementation.

Recommendation: The City should fully fund and implement the Streets Master Plan law which passed last year. The plan requires 30 new miles of bus lanes and 50 new miles of protected bike lanes each year beginning in 2022. Although former Mayor de Blasio has already signed the Streets Master Plan into law it will take multiple years and much more funding to implement. The Streets Master Plan will require assessments every five years and use planning projections to maximize resources and distribute space equitably with safety and preventative measures in mind. This plan will create safer street infrastructure and greatly improve the way pedestrians and bikers experience the city.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing

1B. Begin implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit network on major corridors

Problem: New York City buses are among the slowest in the nation, according to data from the New York Public Interest Research Group and TransitCenter, and reported by NBC News. Before COVID, NYC buses had 2.5 million daily riders; none of them should spend 60 percent of their rides in traffic, sitting at a bus stop, or on a bus going 4.3 miles per hour, as the M14 did in 2019. This terrible service means delays in getting to work, school, and doctors appointments, among other essential trips. It also disproportionately impacts the poorest New Yorkers; bus riders earn an average of $28,455 a year, compared with $40,000 for subway commuters, according to a 2017 report from the NYC Comptroller’s office. 

Recommendation: In 2019, the Department of Transportation developed the Better Buses Plan, which promised to improve bus speeds by 25 percent. A Bus Rapid Transit network on major corridors with poor subway connectivity is a critical step towards meeting that goal. Such networks include longer distances between stops, faster speeds for buses, priority lanes only for buses and trucks, off board fare collection, and all-door boarding. The 2021 Transit Equity Agenda, a plan developed by multiple advocacy groups, recommends starting with Fordham Road, Northern Boulevard, Flatbush Avenue, and First Avenue.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing

1C. Accelerate transit signal priority and support MTA network redesign to support commuters

Problem: Signals, as the National Association of Transportation Officials explains, are a major source of transit delays, even, “when traffic congestion is not a primary issue.” In New York City, “buses spend about 21 percent of their time stopped at traffic lights,” according to a 2020 MTA report. Transit Priority Signal (TSP) tools modify traffic signal timing, giving priority to transit vehicles at signalized intersections. This impacts New Yorkers’ ability to complete a variety of essential tasks, including getting to work on time. 

Recommendation: The city must accelerate the timeline for implementing TSP on major corridors near job hubs like airports and hospitals alongside dedicated lanes for buses. On the M15-SBS route, TSP resulted in an 18 percent decrease in commute times, according to a report from Global Traffic Technologies. The MTA has already developed plans for bus network redesigns in the Bronx and Queens, and released an existing conditions report for Brooklyn. It’s crucial that the MTA work with the DOT to promote these plans and studies and incorporate extensive community input. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing

2) Fund low cost public transit and fair fares

2A. Promote and expand Fair Fares to more New York straphangers

Problem: Public transportation is vital to life in New York City. Millions use the city’s buses, trains, and ferries to get to and from their places of work, school, and pleasure. While the current MTA fare of $2.75 may seem inexpensive to many, it is cost-prohibitive to many low-income New Yorkers. The Community Service Society revealed that 1 in 4 low-income New Yorkers cannot afford the transit fare. The Fair Fares program, which provides a 50 percent discount to income-eligible New Yorkers who live under the poverty line, provides some relief to low-income New Yorkers. However, the program does not do enough to meet the scale of the need of low-income straphangers; the City needs to do more to ensure the widespread success of the program.

Recommendation: The City should continue to guarantee that everyone can share the benefits of public transit by vigorously promoting Fair Fares to all who are eligible, studying the program’s impacts, and carefully considering expansion of the program to more New Yorkers. The City must prioritize and promote the Fair Fares program in order to make transit as accessible as possible to low-income New Yorkers. This includes promoting the program to those who are eligible, investing more money and resources in the program, and expanding the program to New Yorkers living within 200 percent of poverty. Research from MIT showed that a Fair Fares-style program has immense upside for its recipients and does not increase stress on a city’s transit system.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

2B. Establish a NYC Freedom Ticket for Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road lines

Problem: Transit is key to those living in our city—New Yorkers use it to get to work, get their children to school, and explore the city for pleasure. However, in the outer boroughs, there is a lack of affordable transit opportunities, as the city’s subways become more limited. For many, the fares for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro-North are unaffordable for both everyday and leisurely use. The pilot program “Atlantic Ticket,” provides discounted LIRR fares for customers traveling between Brooklyn and several stations in Queens. The Atlantic Ticket has been very successful, providing a $5.00 fare at the aforementioned stations at all times of the day. It began in June 2018, and continues today. 

Recommendation: The City Council and Mayor, while unable to legislate or set policy for the MTA, should work with the MTA to expand Freedom Ticket for a one-year pilot program that covers all Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road lines serving New York City. While ridership is depressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an opportune time to expand access to the LIRR and Metro-North lines within New York City by lowering the fare to $2.75 to match the MTA’s fare. At present during peak-hours, a LIRR fare from Queens to Penn Station is $10.25, and a Metro-North fare from the Bronx to Grand Central is $9.25. Lowering the cost of intra-city travel on the LIRR and Metro-North to $2.75 would greatly lower the cost burden for New Yorkers and help the systems rebuild their riderships without the likelihood of overcrowding. The City Council could pass a resolution to this effect to show support for such a policy.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Advocacy for State Reform

3A. Integrate the City’s accessible taxi fleet into MTA Access-A-Ride

Problem: Access-a-Ride (AAR) provides nearly 9 million rides annually to disabled New Yorkers and their care professionals. According to the MTA, only 25 percent of subway stations are accessible, lagging far behind other major American cities.  AAR means the ability to live independently for many New Yorkers, AAR gets New Yorkers to their jobs, to their doctors, to run critical errands and to see their family and friends. According to Curbed NY, for most users of the service, AAR is their sole transit option, particularly in outer boroughs where, per a CUNY study, rates of subway accessibility are even lower. However, AAR still utterly fails disabled New Yorkers; despite having to designate route requests more than a day in advance, the Access-a-Ride Reform Group has documented at-will changes of their pick-up times the night before a trip, circuitous routes, hours-long delays, and untrained drivers.

Recommendation:  The City should integrate the city’s accessible taxi fleet into MTA Access-A-Ride so riders can get a ride right away, rather than having to reserve a ride the day before. Any fare discounts available to subway and bus riders should also always be extended to Access-A-Ride users. According to City & State, before a round of 2019 budget cuts, the City’s “Advanced Reservation” program allowed Access-a-Ride (AAR) users to reserve accessible rides in yellow and green taxis, and reduced per-ride costs to the MTA by 56 percent. The City must immediately expand On-Demand E-Hail to all registered users of AAR without caps on cost or number of trips, while continuing to invest in making mass transit options accessible. Further, the City must provide culturally responsive training to operators of accessible vehicles to ensure they treat individuals with disabilities with respect and ensure that users with mobility aids can travel safely and securely. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3B. Ensure a greater percentage of livery services serve all New Yorkers

Problem: As of September 2018, 64 out of the 248 stations (26 percent) of the entire MTA commuter rail system are not accessible by wheelchair, according to Mashable. Disabled New Yorkers are often faced with obstacles when trying to commute around the city. The MTA’s Access-A-Ride service is often unreliable and persons with disabilities are forced to request rides 24 hours in advance, according to ProPublica. Many Yellow and Green Taxis are not wheelchair accessible and rideshare services often do not have the infrastructure or vehicles required to have wheelchair access, according to City and State.

Recommendation: According to the Equity On Our Streets agenda, the City must ensure a greater percentage of livery services, including ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, serve all New Yorkers, as yellow taxis already are required to do. New York City should mandate that 50 percent of all licensed livery drivers have handicap-accessible vehicles. The City should mandate all private livery companies have an accessibility officer to ensure compliance with disability legislation. New Yorkers with disabilities should not pay more for accessible transport than persons without disabilities. The City should also expand the pilot program for access-a-ride e-hail that is currently serving 1,200 New Yorkers with disabilities, according to the New York Daily News

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, City Legislation, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3C. Require e-bike and e-scooter servicing companies to provide accessible options

Problem: Even though there are a number of transportation options for New Yorkers, many of them, including public transportation, car rentals, and biking remain largely inaccessible. As the Regional Plan Association notes, there is little to no access to e-bikes and e-scooters for people with disabilities. As these modes of transportation increase in popularity for the city’s residents, there must be options available for people with disabilities. E-Scooters are more popular and can be safer for people with a temporary or permanent disability, and thus their role for transportation is extremely important.

Recommendation: The City should require e-scooter and e-bike servicing companies to provide adequate and an ample supply of options for people with disabilities. According to Fast Company, companies like Lime in San Francisco have started to roll out these scooter options, but it has only been at the discretion of the company. As the City moves toward more sustainable and accessible transportation options for New Yorkers,, the City must also move toward providing equal access to all types of transportation for every New Yorker. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: City Legislation, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3D. Ensure a fully accessible elevator subway system by 2034

Problem: Passed in 1990, the American with Disabilities Act supposedly guarantees people with disabilities equal access to public transportation, notably the New York City subway system. Despite this, ProPublica reports that most of the 472 subway stations do not have elevators, leaving physically impaired individuals without transportation services essential for day-to-day life. According to a report by the Comptroller on NYC employment trends, merely 35 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2019 as compared to the 74 percent rate for their counterparts without disabilities, citing poor transportation as a major contributor to this economic disparity. TransitCenter, a transit social justice organization, declares NYC “least accessible major subway system in the country for people who require stair-free access,” with only 23 percent of stations having elevators, notwithstanding their constant breakdown, further limiting people with disabilities from enjoying reliable, safe access to transportation, as promised under the ADA.

Recommendation: Like Chicago’s 2010 push for increased transit accessibility, the City of New York should establish an “Infrastructure Accessibility Task Force,” to combat poor elevator access and unsafe transportation for New Yorkers with disabilities. The task force should comprise mayoral leadership, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City Transit staff, and local disability advocates who have the express goal of reaching 100 percent accessibility within the next 25 years. To do so, the City should reallocate funds to up the pace of elevator installation and maintenance and in the meantime, per Transit Center’s recommendations, instate an “elevator status Application Programming Interface” to provide clear communication to subway riders about the state of elevators to inform riders who require accommodations. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, City Legislation, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3E. Ensure that the growing ferry system is fully accessible to all, including ferry landings

Problem: The ferry system in New York City is expanding and needs to be kept affordable for people with disabilities, as outlined by Section 5307(d)(1)(D) of the Federal Transit Act. As more people in NYC depend on the ferry for transportation, it needs to be fully accessible and affordable to its riders. Yet,  the combined issue of privatization and budget deficits caused by COVID-19 may result in neglect of these needs and an increase in the price of tickets for ferry riders, even if they qualify for reduced fare tickets on public transit, according to the Citizens Budget Commission

Recommendation: The City must ensure that the ferry system is fully accessible and set goals and timelines to meet these goals. Control of the ferry system should not be given to a private group such as the Economic Development Corporation. The ferry system should fall under the purview of the Department of Transportation and their budgets should be fully transparent and accountable. The Economic Development Corporation isn’t subject to city budgeting procedures and operates outside of the comptroller’s purview, which makes risks like fare expansion a real possibility, according to The City. As the Economic Development Corporation underfunds the ferry system, there are concerns about the City’s ability to fund and maintain accessibility upgrades. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, City Legislation, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing

3F. Ensure bus bulbs and stops are fully accessible with high-visibility markings and ramps

Problem: Bus stops across the city are inaccessible; the absence of system-wide curb extensions, benches, shelters, and trash cans, high-visibility markings, Braille signage, and clear, culturally responsive and access-centered protocol & training for drivers assisting passengers who use mobility aids all serves to discriminate against people with disabilities. Given the woeful inaccessibility of the subway system, many New Yorkers with disabilities — as well as those living in outer boroughs where transportation options are more limited — are dependent on the bus system to get them to work, school, medical facilities, and social events. 

Recommendation: Through the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), the City must expand the purview of its Bus Stop Accessibility program to ensure bus stops and bulbs sufficiently facilitate safe boarding, exit, wait and travel for individuals with disabilities in compliance with the ADA and with generally recognized best practices for accessibility, according to the Transit Center.  Further, the City must commit to transparency by establishing clear, quantifiable goals and a timeline for system-wide bus network accessibility. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing

3G. Make intersections safe with accessible curb cuts and pedestrian signals and daylighting

Problem: According to Gothamist, as of March 2019, the de Blasio mayoral administration promised to survey and ensure that all of the city’s roughly 162,000 sidewalk curbs are accessible for New Yorkers with mobility and vision-impairment issues after advocates from the Center for Independence of the Disabled called attention to the fact that more than 75 percent of the 1,066 curbs in Lower Manhattan have barriers that presented safety hazards, and more than a quarter had no curb cut whatsoever. As reported by Politico, as part of continuing negotiations over legal action brought by CID, the City announced a plan to hire 500 workers and spend $1.55 billion over the next decade on street-level accessibility, and promised that upgrades of most non-compliant pedestrian ramps would be completed by 2034. But as of 2020, New York Daily News coverage of the Manhattan borough president’s office indicates that the city remains woefully behind its own projections for access-related interventions, which were found to be most necessary (due to lack of compliance and infrastructural decay) in predominantly Black, Latinx, immigrant, and low-income neighborhoods of color. 

Recommendation: The City must be transparent in its progress towards updating all curb cuts to be compliant with pedestrian safety code, the ADA, and other relevant legislation, agency policy, and case law, and revise its projections for citywide access to be achieved under the next mayoral administration (i.e., by 2026). The City must repair curb cuts across the city, especially in low-income communities of color, immediately. The City can use federal stimulus dollars and tie this repair work into public works projects to employ more New Yorkers of color and New Yorkers with disabilities.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, City Legislation, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing

3H. Establish rapid cleaning of sidewalks, crosswalks and bus stops after major snow or storms

Problem: According to Spectrum News 1, New York City averages around 25 inches of snow per year. The large amounts of snow blocks sidewalks , crosswalks, bus stops, and curb cuts with impassable rivers of slush. Meanwhile, as the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) prioritizes clearing streets for vehicles, there is no accomodation for pedestrians, leaving people with disabilities stranded and unable to use pedestrian and commuter walkways. 

Recommendation: According to the transit advocates in the Equity On Our Streets agenda, the City must clean sidewalks, crosswalks and bus stops from ice, snow, and ponding water more rapidly so pedestrians can get around after major precipitation events including heavy rains. The Comptroller’s office recommends that the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) mobilize snow laborers in the event of two inches or more of snowfall to assist in the clearing of sidewalks and curb cuts. The clearing of curb cuts and accessibility infrastructure should be cleared during snow fall and not at 8:00 the morning after snowfall. DSNY should clear as many curb cuts as possible before rush hour the morning after snowfall. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing

3I. Ensure that sidewalks are clear of obstructions and passable for people with disabilities

Problem: As restaurants have looked to outdoor solutions to accommodate the restrictions on indoor dining during the pandemic, sidewalk space can be harder to navigate or less accessible for people with mobility issues. Many restaurants are opting to create outdoor seating that must “provide a ramp for ADA compliance, which can be made of non-permanent materials” according to the NYC Department of Transportation. However, there are many that are not keeping the sidewalks clear for pedestrians with mobility issues. The addition of these structures has added obstacles such as chairs, plants, and coverings that make navigation difficult, as it has considerably narrowed walking space as well as added congestion from the people using these outdoor dining structures. 

Recommendation: The City should continue the “Open Streets” program, as an attainable solution to the problem of sidewalk crowding and an aid in the recovery of small businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic. According to the Department of Transportation, New York City has added over 100 additional open streets and are now accepting applications for additional streets. This could substantially allow for more mobility and maneuverability for individuals as well as a way to promote less car use which would overall improve the health of all individuals in the city, according to the New York Times. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing

4) Reorganize parking and street space for sustainable transportation

Street design in New York City has been done with the primary focus being for car owners. However, many residents rely on public transit and biking, and they deserve to have equitable space to access these modes of transportation. Also, the parking spaces that are available for those who need it are often occupied by drivers with erroneous parking placards, or the loading of commercial vehicles that take up space during working/daytime hours. The city needs to address these issues by looking at expanding access to alternate modes of transportation, and creating more efficient access to parking spaces. 

4A. Replace parking requirements for new buildings with sustainable transit improvements

Problem: Streetsblog notes that city zoning laws require developers to build parking spots for half of their market-rate units. These private parking spaces are often considered amenities for the units themselves and can increase the price, making them unaffordable for many people.  Current policy effectively limits the number of housing units that are built and reduces the number of units offered at below-market rate due to the parking requirement. The parking requirement also promotes reliance on private vehicles and fails to invest in the public transit infrastructure to support the increased population density that comes with new development. 

Recommendation: According to the Equity on Our Streets coalition, the city should replace parking requirements with required contributions to improve transportation infrastructure. Investments in subway and bus infrastructure will serve the surrounding community more efficiently. In addition, building spaces for car-sharing and bike-sharing will meet the transportation needs of residents without sharp reductions in the number of units built. Transportation Alternatives notes that seven to ten bicycles can be parked in the same area required to park just one car. Investment in public bike parking would be another good alternative to promote its usage.

Office: City Council

Mechanism: City Legislation, Land Use Action

4B. Expand metering and efficient loading and delivery time and zone options

Problem: According to the City, over 300,000 jobs depend directly on freight delivery. A large percentage, 89 percent, of cargo that enters NYC each year is carried by truck. Inefficient delivery options have negative financial impacts on delievers and receivers. Additionally, inefficient delivery creates more traffic congestion, increases noise levels, and produces poor air quality emissions. 

Recommendation: The City conducted a study of truck deliveries in 2017 via Local Law 189. Resulting recommendations included expanding off-hour deliveries based on a pilot program from 2007-2010. The Off-Hour Deliveries pilot had more success because of the attached financial incentive. Expanding metering and providing more loading options must pair with off-hour delivery incentives to have more efficient city streets. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: City Legislation, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

4C. Eliminate non-medical parking privileges for private vehicles

Problem: According to New York City Open Data, from July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020, the New York Police Department (NYPD) issued 2,444 summonses for the violation, “Fraudulent use of parking permit,” The vast majority of the summonses were written by NYPD employed Traffic Enforcement Agents. These expired and illegal non-medical placards contribute to rampant illegal parking in front of hydrants, bus and bike lanes, no standing zones, and on sidewalks. Misuse of placards is considered official corruption and leads to eroded public trust as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Recommendation: The City should switch from the antiquated paper placards on dashboards to an electronic system tied to license plate numbers and vehicle identification numbers. If parking violations or placard abuse is reported then electronic placards should be revoked. Additionally, traffic enforcement should be moved to the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) rather than be housed in the NYPD. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, City Legislation, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Oversight and/or Auditing