No such thing as a free ride


(re: “Move that bus! Officials demand Cuomo improve service,” May 25)

There is more to your recent story. The MTA already has awarded contracts for $200 million to purchase and install a new bus radio system along with $150 million for purchase and installation of a new East New York Brooklyn bus command center.

Although both projects already are several years behind schedule (what else is new?), riders will eventually see benefits from the completion of both the bus radio system and command bus center. They will support operations of more than 6,000 buses providing service in all five boroughs, including Riverdale and the Bronx.

Once in use, they will support proper dispatching and monitoring of service, which assist in avoiding bus bunching.

Transit signal improvements affording buses priority movement on streets saving riders time also involves the cooperation and support of city transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Boarding of buses in both the front and back has other issues to contend with. While riders are encouraged to exit in the rear, many depart via both the front and back doors. Conflicts will arise between riders attempting to board via both front and back doors, versus those wanting to exit.

How many times have you been delayed by riders who fumble around trying to find their MetroCard, attempt to use a MetroCard with insufficient fare, or look for the right amount of loose change resulting in more delays before a bus can depart the stop?

MTA, as part of the $29 billion five-year capital plan that began in 2015, also is in the process of spending $1 billion for purchasing more than 1,000 new buses. MTA Bus has programmed $300 million to buy more than 400 new buses. Some of these buses will be assigned to routes serving Riverdale and other Bronx neighborhoods.

There are other projects and plans outlined in both the MTA five-year capital plan, and the MTA 20-year capital needs assessment plan for even more investments to support both the New York City Transit and MTA bus systems. All of the above will benefit Riverdale riders who use the Bx1, Bx7, Bx10, Bx20 local along with BxM1, BxM2 and BxM18 express bus routes.

What continues to be missing is potential new service options other than buses for residents of Riverdale and other communities served by the Metro-North Hudson line to Penn Station. This could be provided via the Metro-North Hudson line using existing Amtrak Empire Hudson line connections into Penn Station.

Attempting to restore Cuomo’s cut of $65 million from the budget missed the bigger picture. Cuomo still owes $5.8 billion of the $8.3 billion he promised two years ago to fully fund the MTA’s five-year capital plan. Don’t forget that de Blasio still owes a significant portion of the $2.5 billion he also promised to help pay for the same plan.

In the end, quality and frequency of service is dependent upon secure revenue streams. We all have to contribute — be it at the fare box, or tax revenues generated by different levels of government distributed back to the MTA.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, or in this case, a free ride.

The author is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York office.

Larry Penner,