CHARLES FUSCHILLO JR.
Chairman, Senate Transportation Committee
Q: What was the biggest success in terms of transportation legislation this session?
CF: The state budget. We approved a $4.5 billion capital plan to help fund desperately needed infrastructure-improvement projects, with an agreement to do a two-year DOT capital plan next year, augmented by a $100 million increase in both years over current funding levels. We also created the New York Works program, which will supplement the capital plan by $1.6 billion and expedite critical projects throughout the state.
Q: Did any key pieces of transportation legislation fail to pass?
CF: The legislation to strengthen
Leandra’s Law and prevent drunk drivers from getting around the law’s mandatory ignition-interlock requirement. Ignition interlocks have been proven to save lives, which is why we included them under the law. However, only 30 percent of the convicted drunk drivers who were ordered to install them actually did so. The Senate passed the legislation, but the Assembly held the bill in committee.
Q: What is the status of your public-
private partnership legislation?
CF: We approved design-build legislation last December, and we are already seeing positive results in terms of how quickly many of the New York Works projects are moving forward. The legislation I’m sponsoring would build on that success and give the state greater flexibility to enter into P3 agreements. We’re continuing to have conversations with the Assembly and the governor, and I’m hopeful this legislation will get passed and signed into law as soon as possible.
Q: How much does adequately financing transportation depend on a strong economic recovery?
CF: Every $1 billion spent on infrastructure projects creates approximately 25,000 jobs. Even in challenging financial times, we still need to find ways to fund critical projects to keep our infrastructure safe, functional and reliable… We need to keep exploring new and innovative ways to generate economic development, reduce risk and financial burden to the state, and stretch current funding farther to get more projects off the ground.
Chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Q: How will the MTA close its budget gap in coming years?
JL: We’re in the process of updating our financial plan for the coming years. We are confident that a combination of aggressive cost-cutting, a labor agreement with three years of net-zero wage increases and small but regular fare and toll increases will allow us to keep our budget balanced. However, that balance is fragile, and even as our discretionary costs have increased by only six-tenths of 1 percent, our nondiscretionary costs are projected to grow much higher than the rate of inflation.
Q: Will the subway countdown clocks be expanded?
JL: Our customers love the countdown clocks, which were possible after a decade of work to improve the signaling system on all the numbered lines. Changing the signals on the lettered lines will take even longer, so we’re looking at a variety of technologies to speed up that process and deliver countdown clocks faster. We want all stations to have them as soon as possible.
Q: What else does the MTA have up its sleeve?
JL: The subway countdown data will get pushed out to apps and computers within the next couple of months, so you can check their progress from your phone or computer. And just like the countdown clocks on subways, Bus Time has been tremendously popular on bus lines, so instead of waiting for the bus you can meet it. It’s available for all buses on Staten Island now, on the M34 in Manhattan and the B63 in Brooklyn, on every bus in the Bronx by the end of the year, and on every bus in the city by the end of next year.
Q: When you came on, a top priority was improving the MTA’s reputation.
JL: We’re starting to change some impressions about the MTA, but we have a long way to go. We need to keep finding more efficiencies in how we operate to minimize the need for future fare increases. We need to keep our major capital projects like East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway on time and on budget. And we need to identify new sources of funding to pay for the next capital plan starting in 2015.
Chairman, New York City Council Transportation Committee
Q: What is New York City’s biggest mass-transit issue?
JV: Long-term there has to be stability for funding streams that the MTA can count on, both on the expense and the capital side. Of an immediate nature is if the MTA will be able to make some restorations of service that were cut in 2010. Many people, especially those who take buses, are hoping for these restorations. Many of them have been left stranded by the cuts, and for the immediate future we have to look to restorations. And the MTA will have to make that determination based on their fiscal situation. Bus ridership is down since those cuts, and if bus ridership is down, in all likelihood car use is up. That’s something that we don’t want to encourage.
Q: What other issues are you working on?
JV: We have an increasing amount of people who are going to work not in Manhattan but in their own boroughs or within suburban counties. People in the outer boroughs now commute to suburban jobs centers, and mass transit has not kept up with that reality. More people now than ever work in the Bronx, for example, or they work in job centers such as White Plains or Stamford, Conn.—and how do we get them there without them using their cars? I think that there has to be a planning effort in that regard.
Q: Is a strong national economic recovery essential to fully fund the city’s mass-transit needs?
JV: I would think a good national economy is always better than a bad one. It could go two ways. If there’s a bad national economy, could the federal government then try to stimulate the economy by funding mass-transit infrastructure? I think Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they do not want to do that, but Democrats have tried to use a bad national economy as an opportunity to catch up on mass-transit infrastructure projects. A good national economy is good because then you have more money coming in from the gas tax, and that means there’s more money for mass transit, because people are driving, people are going on vacations and people have money in their pockets to spend. I think this is a pro and con to both situations.
New York City Transportation Commissioner
Q: What is your top priority now?
JS: A world-class city needs world-class transportation options. Starting this summer, New York City is moving ahead with Citi Bike, a new low-cost transportation option that will bring 10,000 bikes to 600 stations by spring in Manhattan south of 59th Street and from Long Island City in Queens to Park Slope, Brooklyn. Bike share will give New Yorkers tap-and-go access to the nation’s largest fleet of publicly available bikes—a kind of transportation-to-go. It’s also the first large-scale network to launch without any taxpayer outlay—potentially providing a new model for systems elsewhere in the nation.
Q: What else are you working on?
JS: While we seek to expand choices for travel with bike share, Select Bus service and other programs, we have not let up on a $5 billion state-of-good-repair investment program over the last five years for roads, sidewalks, and bridges and streets. We are doubling down with these efforts and with innovative programs like the major expansion of Midtown in Motion, which uses state-of-the-art technology that lets traffic engineers identify and respond to Midtown traffic choke points in real time.
Q: You’ve been described as part Jane Jacobs, part Robert Moses. How do you see yourself?
JS: It’s because Robert Moses built out the network that today we are able to repurpose just some of this to work for pedestrians and bike riders as well as it does for those behind the wheel. Jane Jacobs showed that a livable city is a place where the streets are attractive and inviting for people of every age, and where it’s safe and easy to get around on foot. And these investments in the pedestrian space are investments in the retail economy—and as we saw in Times Square, it’s the difference between night and day. Times Square retail rents have doubled, and it’s listed as one of the top retail corridors on the planet. We are reengineering streets to make them safer for seniors and for schoolkids, installing audible pedestrian signals for the sight-impaired, and we are moving ahead with our CityBench installations and with a pedestrian sign and information network to help New Yorkers and visitors crack the code on how to get around New York’s streets.
Tags: Bus Time, Charles Fuschillo, City Council, East Side Access, James Vacca, Janette Sadik-Khan, Joseph Lhota, Leandra’s Law, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, MTA, New York Works, Robert Moses, Second Avenue SubwayJane Jacobs
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