Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Light rail now!

(Image: vision42.org)

The following comment was posted yesterday in response to the NY Times City Room blog item about congestion pricing's downfall. While I disagree with Mr. Spitz's characterization of congestion pricing as "economically harmful," I found his comment particularly visionary in promoting light rail as a greener mass transit strategy:

In promoting Congestion Pricing as a panacea, Mayor Bloomberg continues the irrational policies of his PlaNYC and the MTA by omitting non polluting street level boarding light rail as a remedy for improving the environment and lessening vehicle gridlock. Light rail, the solution successfully adopted by forward-looking cities including Charlotte, Baltimore, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Portland, Oregon, has proven to be the 21st century answer for reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.

The Mayor and the MTA are promoting two excessively costly Manhattan mega-projects which threaten to absorb not only all available transit funding and but which may require further subway, bus and toll bridge increases. Moreover, the $4.65 billion, 1.7 mile three station first phase Second Avenue Subway is not expected to be completed until 2015 and construction of the $2.1 billion one station 42nd street number 7 line extension has not yet begun.

Substituting street level boarding (excellent for senior citizens and the disabled) light rail on 1st, 2nd and 3rd Avenues for the Second Avenue Subway and the uncomfortable polluting articulated buses now used on those thoroughfares would cost less than $500 million and the MTA could easily construct river to river light rail on 42nd street for less than $300 million. Studies have shown that European and North American motorists are willing to abandon their cars when provided with state of art light rail as an alternative for their daily commute. There is enough money already committed by Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC and the MTA to the aforementioned Megaprojects to make major improvements such as light rail and bus rapid-transit plus improved subway signaling equipment throughout the five Boroughs without the economically harmful Congestion Pricing scheme.

— Posted by George N. Spitz

In my experiences riding light rail, I have found it to be the most pleasant means of urban mass transit as I didn't have to manage subway station entrances and exits (problematic if one is disabled or encumbered) and I got to enjoy charming street-level views of the city (rather than being banished underground).

For an example of light rail being applied to New York, check out vision42's fabulous proposal to make 42 Street a car-free pedestrian and light-rail corridor.


Anonymous said...

Although I do agree a light rail would bring a needed breath of fresh air to 42nd street, I don't think the MTA has money oozing out of their pockets right now to spend on such luxuries. I say luxury because 42nd street already has not only several crosstown buses, but the Shuttle and the 7 line. The 2nd ave subway would serve many more people and communities, and would not be replacing anything already in existence.

Urbanis said...

Thanks for your comment. I agree that in a time of limited budgets, providing a transit route along 2nd Ave is a higher priority than pedestrianizing and providing light rail on 42 St (which vision42 proposes). However, I think Spitz's proposal to install a light rail line on 2nd Ave is worth investigating, particularly as it could offer significant savings in installation costs and time over digging a subway line.

Anonymous said...

Them boys in Bayside are the most dangerous and backwards of all. The city should toughen inspections for medical, psychiatric and vehicle reasons to cut down the number of congestion. This way, we will also get the voters against congestion pricing, who live in Bayside and Staten Island, to move away. Free health care means psychiatric care for all those angry talk radio white males! They are all overweight from driving around too much, burdening the city health system!