“It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up to an extra three-and-a-half days a year,” Quinn said during a speech at LaGuardia Community College last week.
Quinn was especially critical of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). “Right now the MTA focuses almost exclusively on existing demands.” she said.
The speaker took her lead from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took control of the city's education system from the state, and vowed if elected mayor she would push for state legislation that would give the city's mayor of a majority of the appointments on the MTA's governing board.
She also said the mayor should decide who is the president of the NYC Transit Division, and that the changes would mean that the majority of the people who actually use mass transit will be better represented.
“This change will keep our trains and buses operating as a regional system, but will make sure that the majority stakeholders have a majority voice,” she said. “And having the buck stop with the mayor will bring much needed accountability, just as we’ve seen with mayoral control of our schools.”
As for specifics, Quinn said the city needs to incorporate ferry service on a more regular basis, citing the success of the East River Ferry Service.
“In just 18 months, it’s already served over 1.6 million riders,” she said.
The plan drew praise from waterway activists.
“The vision for the next phase for ferry service in New York City laid out by Speaker Quinn has the potential to reactivate our waterfronts, help even more residents and visitors move around the city easier, all while leveraging one of our great natural resources,” said Roland Lewis, president and CEO of Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.
Quinn said she would also look to expand Select Bus Service routes, noting that expanding bus service is easier – and less expensive – than expanding subway service.
“Subways cost roughly $1 billion a mile to construct,” she said. “Bus rapid transit, just $1 million a mile.”
“Select Bus Service is New York’s opportunity to provide communities that have been starving for transportation options with world-class service,” said Paul Steely, executive director of Transportation Alternative.
Quinn made it clear that any large-scale mass transit initiatives would take years to come to fruition and create a financial burden on the city.
“Now, this won’t be cheap,” she said. “Building new Metro North stations could cost $600 million, new select bus routes could be $150 million in capital, and expanding ferry services $3 to $6 million more in operating subsidies.”
But the cost and time were justified by the speaker, who said that it is more important for people to be with their families or sleeping, rather than spending time in traffic.
She also noted that economic activity would increase.
“Every $1 billion in transportation funding generates $3.6 billion in economic activity and supports 36,000 jobs,” she said.