Friday, July 2, 2010

Bloomberg Can Make Slight Improvements, but City Hall Doesn't Have Money, Power to Improve Transit by Adam Lisberg - NY Daily News

Mayor Bloomberg misled the public about transportation matters during mayoral campaign...He made promises he knew he couldn't keep...But what else is new..?

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New Yorkers can mull Mayor Bloomberg's campaign promises as they are forced to settle for longer commutes after N, W train cuts. Lombard for News

New York wakes up this morning with two fewer subway lines, 36 fewer bus routes, longer waits and more crowded rides all across town.

Perhaps you can use the extra time on your commute to think about how Mayor Bloomberg promised you free crosstown buses last summer.

It was the splashiest part of his 34-point transit plan: He said most riders on the M50 and other crosstown routes use free transfers off another bus or subway, so charging them was a waste of time.

"The lost revenue is trivial," he said. "We've done the survey."

The mayor promised more: The F train would start running express on unused tracks again. Three closed LIRR stations in Queens would reopen. Staten Island would get a train line on the North Shore.

A year later, none of that has come true. The MTA doesn't have enough money to keep all its trains and buses running, much less expand them or let people ride them for free.

One insider says Bloomberg's city staff never thought free buses could work, even as the campaign staff ran with it.

"That was the laugher," he said. "He had to know it was a joke. Nice campaign fodder, though."

Other parts of Bloomberg's plan are coming true. Most of them were already underway at the MTA, or can be done with minimal cost to the city, but they're real.

Countdown clocks have been arriving in subway stations along the 4-5-6 line. New high-speed bus routes are coming to First and Second Aves. Bloomberg has no control over the MTA, but gets along well with new MTA boss Jay Walder.

Just last week, Bloomberg jump-started his campaign pledge for expanded commuter van service, starting in neighborhoods hit by the MTA's service cuts.

New Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who privatized buses when he was mayor of Indianapolis, tweeted the next night: "Looking for all good ideas to improve NYC service levels."

The big things take money, however - money the city and the MTA don't have.

When a Staten Islander asked Bloomberg a few weeks ago if he could help with the bus cuts, the mayor brushed him off and said his hands were tied.

"You are getting the short end of the stick, and you should be out there screaming," Bloomberg said. "I don't know what else to tell you."

It was an admission of reality: City Hall can work on the margins to make life easier for straphangers, but it doesn't have the money or power for big transit changes.

That shouldn't surprise anyone in New York - unless they believed what Bloomberg promised them last year.