Michael Bloomberg’s first major policy rollout of the reelection campaign is a plan for mass transit improvement, representing a fresh attempt for him to fix the city’s traffic problems.
The major part of Bloomberg’s plan calls for installing countdown clocks to tell riders when the next train or bus will arrive, and free cross-town bus service at certain locations.
Other proposals include discounts for riders switching from bus or trains to Metro North or LIRR trains, gateless tolling at some intersections, reinstating the F-train service, and reopening some train stations on Staten Island’s North Shore.
The fine print on the policies is worth noting. Some of these proposals would have to be implemented by New York City Transit, a subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is not directly under the mayor’s control. In fact, it’s regulated by the State Legislature, the folks who have a history of killing Bloomberg projects (West Side Stadium, congestion pricing, and, briefly, mayoral control).
“A lot of these things would require a simple pen stroke by the Legislature, [or] by the governor on a bill the Legislature approves,” Bloomberg said at an event on 34th Street near 11th Avenue, where he unveiled his plans.
When asked if this would contribute to the M.T.A.’s cost for running trains and buses and lead to more fare hikes, Bloomberg said, “Quite the contrary. You will never stop the fare increases unless you do some of this. Make no mistake about this.”
Since labor is the bulk of the M.T.A.’s costs, “unless we have technology that lets us do more with less, you will never stop the increases in expenses.”
Bill Thompson’s campaign is noting that they proposed some of these ideas earlier and are criticizing Bloomberg for poaching them. Specifically, Thompson’s people note they called for reduced Metro North and L.I.R.R. train fares for subway and bus riders.
When asked for his comment on Thompson’s campaign claims, Bloomberg avoided the issue of who proposed the ideas first and said it was a shame the solutions have not been implemented yet.
“That’s the disgrace here. We know what to do and we haven’t done it,” Bloomberg said.
Also, Thompson’s campaign sent out a statement trying to pin the recent fare hikes on Bloommberg, saying, “Under Mike Bloomberg’s watch, M.T.A. fares have gone up 50 percent, New Yorker straphangers pay the highest percentage of mass transit costs in the nation, and buses and subways continue to be both dirty and unreliable.”
Liz Benjamin truth-squads that criticism and finds it wanting, calling it “misleading” because the State Legislature is more responsible for the fare hikes than the statement suggests.