It’s time for that regular doctor’s appointment at Montefiore Medical Center in Wakefield, and you need to get there from your home in Spuyten Duvyil.
You pull out your MetroCard and head to the bus stop. You grab the Bx10 to Paul Avenue and West Mosholu Parkway where you can hop the 4 train. You take that one stop to Woodlawn, and then hail a Bx16 bus to carry you six more stops to the hospital at Webster Avenue and East 233rd Street.
Those three MetroCard swipes will cost you $5.50. Round-trip is $11. And if you need to make that trip, say, three times a week, you might as well fork over $127 for an unlimited MetroCard.
And as far as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is concerned, that’s perfectly fine. Although we should point out the governor hasn’t traditionally spent a lot of time in the Bronx, and when he has come here, it certainly wasn’t using mass transit.
Getting around the Bronx is pretty easy by train or bus — so long as where you’re getting around to is Manhattan. If you’re looking to get elsewhere in the Bronx, forget about it. And it’s not surprising — when lines like the 1, 4 and 6 trains were constructed in the Bronx, the borough was home to just 200,000 people, and was more farmland than anything else.
But now there are just under 1.5 million people, all trying to get around 42 square miles, and it’s not easy.
A car trip between Soundview and Riverdale is just nine miles. But if you depend on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, it’s a more-than two-hour journey involving two buses and two subways, costing $5.50, or 61 cents a mile.
Yet, driving a car between Crown Heights in Brooklyn and Riverdale is 21 miles, but you could hang on to a strap for about 90 minutes, taking a single train and a single bus here for a total cost of $2.75. That’s 13 cents a mile, by the way.
But that’s our transit system. Get around the Bronx? Don’t be silly. Want to commute in from two boroughs away? It’s faster and cheaper.
That’s something Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz knows all too well. For the last several years, he has steered bill after bill through both chambers of the legislature that would require the MTA to provide two free transfers within a two-hour period. The outer boroughs are transit deserts, Dinowitz said, where more and more people are finding themselves making more than one transfer to shop, to get to work, or to see the doctor.
But every time this bill has landed on his desk, Cuomo pulled out his veto pen. In 2015, Cuomo claimed the second free transfer would cost the MTA $40 million. If Dinowitz can’t find $40 million to replace it, then those being forced to already take super-long bus and train rides will just have to suck it up.
Wow, $40 million? The MTA is taking $110,000 out of the pockets of straphangers each and every day because they are being forced to swipe their MetroCards more than twice in a single trip?
The MTA certainly needs money, but do they need that much? By Cuomo’s very own math, our transit system produces 40,000 second transfers. Every day. That’s 28 second transfers every single minute.
That’s OK? Because those of us who choose to live and work in the Bronx should have known how terrible our transit system is in the outer boroughs?
Money is important to a transit system that is facing nearly a half-billion dollars in deficits next year. But so is the founding principal of the MTA: To get people around as inexpensively and as environmentally friendly as possible.
For every person boarding a bus or jumping on a train, that’s one less car on the road. For every person swiping their MetroCard, that’s a significant contribution toward a system that millions depend on every day.
Second transfers aren’t happening because straphangers are greedy about getting around. Second transfers are happening because there is no other choice. It’s bad enough that it’s easier to go to Brooklyn right now than it is to get anywhere past Norwood in our own borough. But it has to cost more, too?
Dinowitz is on the right track, but even he isn’t going far enough. Forget the free second transfer — anyone who swipes a MetroCard should not be charged for any other swipe they make in the next two hours, no matter how many transfers.
Our Assemblyman gets it. Now our governor needs to.