“Unclog New York,”
Say Five Former City Transportation Commissioners and Coalition
Issue 5-Point Plan for Next Mayor; Urge Candidates to Endorse It
NEW YORK, June 4—Five former city transportation commissioners and a coalition of major business, labor, civic, rider and environmental groups today issued a comprehensive five-point non-partisan plan for improving city transportation and called on the candidates for mayor to support it.
The plan — “Unclogging New York” — urges the next mayor to aggressively attack New York’s nightmarish transportation problems by:
1. Winning real progress on major projects such as the Second Avenue Subway and the Long Island Rail Road-Grand Central link and pressing for a “fix-it-first” policy for roads and bridges. The group called on the next mayor to challenge the state to give New York City its rightful share of aid and called for reinstating a commuter-tax for transportation;
2. Pressing for more, faster and less crowded transit service by demanding a maximum four-minute rush-hour wait on all subway lines and having every rider get a seat off-peak;
3. Improving the quality of life and safety on our streets by cracking down on speeders and other dangerous drivers and widening overcrowded and dangerous sidewalks. The group called for a car-free Prospect Park;
4. Implementing “value pricing” to encourage off-peak trips and reduce congestion; and
5. Becoming a “transportation champion” fighting to improve the city’s transportation, including requiring city officials to use transit regularly and slashing the number of unnecessary government employee parking permits.
“Getting around New York City is a daily challenge,” said Lee Sander, a former city transportation commissioner for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. “The next mayor can lower the stress and strain of commuting for all New Yorkers by adopting our plan to unclog city transportation.”
Commissioner Sander was joined in the call by former transportation commissioners Lucius Riccio from the Dinkins Administration; Ross Sandler and Sam Schwartz from the Koch Administration; and Constantine Sidamon Eristoff from the Lindsay Administration.
The commissioners were also joined by an unprecedented and non-partisan coalition of 22 leading business, labor, civic, transit rider and environmental groups. (See attached plan and endorsing groups.)
The plan was submitted to six leading mayoral candidates last week.
"New York City can only sustain our economy and improve environmental quality if we can get people to work and move freight efficiently," said Lindsay-era commissioner Constantine Sidamon Eristoff. "That's why a wide array of business, labor, environmental, and civic groups have come together on a transportation plan for the coming years."
"The next mayor and City Council can dramatically increase our mobility, improve our economic competitiveness, improve the environment, and enhance the quality of our daily lives," said Koch-era transportation commissioner Ross Sandler.
Lee Sander added: "The next mayor should press for real progress on expanding transit, including a Second Avenue Subway; linking the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal; rail access to our airports and getting the commuter railroads to better serve city neighborhoods.
"More subway and bus service is desperately needed to meet increasing ridership," said Dinkins-era transportation commissioner Lucius Riccio. "New York City has the slowest buses in America. As a matter of civic pride, the next mayor should end our last place finish.”
"We need to fix our aging roads and bridges," said Koch-era transportation first deputy commissioner Sam Schwartz, noting bridge conditions here are far worse than the rest of the country. New York ranks 45 out of 50 states in percent deficient bridges. In 1999, 39% of the state's bridges were rated deficient compared to a national average of 28%. In New York City, two-thirds of city-owned bridges are deficient. Schwartz added: "Rehabilitation and maintenance of city bridges and roads must be a cornerstone of the next administration. Failure to do so will saddle future generations with enormous costs, unnecessary risks and emergency closures."
"The next mayor should get a real commitment from the state by challenging it with matching city funds—and fighting for new sources of funding, like a re-instituted commuter tax, dedicated to transportation," said Robert Yaro, executive director of Regional Plan Association.
The groups endorsing the five-point plan expressed a "deep concern over the city’s increasingly inadequate and antiquated transportation system."
"This city was built on its transportation network," said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York. "Our future growth depends on maintaining and expanding it."
At a news conference in the Grand Central Subway Station, the groups spoke in support for the plan. "New York City is choking on the fumes and congestion generated by trucks," said Richard Anderson, president of the Building Congress. "We need a transportation system that moves freight and that balances the needs of communities and merchants."
"More subway and bus service is desperately needed to meet the increasing ridership demands brought on by fare discounts and job growth," said Roger Toussaint, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union.
“There should be no more than a four-minute rush-hour wait on any subway line—and a seat for everyone in the off-hours,” said Gene Russianoff, attorney for the Straphangers Campaign.
"The city needs to make streets safer and more congenial for pedestrians and bicyclists," said John Kaehny, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. "That means using aggressive traffic calming techniques, increasing police and traffic enforcement, and rebuilding dangerous thoroughfares like Queens Boulevard and the Grand Concourse.”
"The next mayor should take a close look at 'value pricing' to reduce congestion," said Marcia Bystryn of the NYS League of Conservation Voters. Added Jim Tripp, senior counsel for Environmental Defense: "Our groups urge the next mayor to appoint a task force to create a fairer system of tolls. Value pricing works to reduce congestion and delays by charging lower fares during off-peak periods — including free late nights — and higher during peak periods."
"We urge the next mayor to adopt this commonsense blueprint to unclog and calm city streets, ease horrendous crowding on the subways and buses, improve commuter regional access to all central business districts, and move critical freight," said Carl Weisbrod of the Alliance for Downtown New York.