Last week Governor Cuomo made headlines by announcing that the MTA would be seeking to implement a corporate sponsorship model for New York’s subway stations. Cuomo argues that conservancies, which are mostly funded through private dollars, worked for parks and thus could inject New York’s struggling subway system with some much needed capital. The city’s subway denizens who suffer through both chronic delays and dreary, nasty stations environments, may be inclined to agree.
Last weekend, the MTA’s recent struggles went national when the Mayor of Chicago, published a Monday New York Times Op-Ed entitled “In Chicago, The Trains Actually Run on Time.” The haughty, headline of Emanuel’s opine earned a swift backlash from New York’s press and many ordinary citizens. New Yorkers may hate the MTA, but it’s our MTA! Beneath all of the noise, there was a rare, thoughtful and prominent critique of urban mass transit best practices.
For me, many of Emanuel’s argument’s resonated, while other’s didn’t.
New York’s shiny new ferry service, which officially launched on May 1st, is experiencing a few growing pains which underscore the operational challenges of reliable and scalable new transit service, particularly ferries, within the five boroughs
Though the problems have not been well documented by the media, a quick glance at the service’s twitter feed quickly reveals a broad array of complaints from frustrated passengers, though:
The last 60 days were hell for commuters who rely on New York’s Penn Station, the busiest transit hub in the North America. In several separate incidents, train derailments and other problems have caused delays that have, quite literally, affected millions of passengers.
With many tens of billions of dollars in the bank, LA’s city planners are hard at work laying out an ambitious array of transit improvements for the county’s ten million citizens. More than a dozen projects, each of which would be a show-stopper in another major city, are planned over the next fifteen years, essentially a doubling of the region’s transit millage.
More recently, however, the conversation has shifted to the type of infrastructure that is most appropriate for specific corridors and neighborhoods. Opportunities to transform a city only come so often, and thus planners and the citizenry alike want to ensure that infrastructure projects are built to adequately serve the needs of a growing metropolis. Nowhere is this debate drawing more attention than on Vermont Avenue.
The Mayor is excited about New York’s new “Citywide Ferry” service that is slated to begin this summer. These new ferries are designed to bridge the gap between existing transit solutions and the rapid pace of development, which has resulted in new jobs and residences along waterfront neighborhoods, which are relatively far from transit. City officials eventually project as much as 4.6 million trips per year (about 1.5 days worth of the weekend ridership on the subway, for perspective).
Much ink has already been spilled on smart transportation policy and what it will take to get a New York ferry system right. Ferries must be plugged into the existing transit network, fast and easy to use in order to attract significant amounts of ridership. The nation’s best public ferry is actually already up and running here, it travels between Manhattan and Staten Island, and should serve as a replicable model for how to connect far flung neighborhoods like Far Rockaway to other parts of the city.
Los Angeles, long the poster-child for sprawling low density development, has quietly built a strong case for the country’s leading transit planning city. While no one would dare argue that today’s Los Angeles offers serious competition to the likes of New York, Boston or Washington DC, the city is doing what no one else has been able to: think big and build big.