Let’s Make Every New Yorker’s Commute Equal

Holly Lynch New Yorker Logo
Holly Lynch New Yorker Logo
Holly Lynch New Yorker

Let’s Make Every New Yorker’s Commute Equal

Transportation inequality has wide economic repercussions that trickle down to those most in need.
March 12, 2018

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What should have been a 15-minute trip on the A from Downtown Brooklyn to Manhattan became a complete unknown.  After standing on the platform with a colleague for what seemed an eternity, the supposed 10-minute train arrival shown on the screen suddenly disappeared. Soon after, the C disappeared too.  Both were MIA. 

As a native of the city, my hackles rose as I uttered an expletive at the inconvenience because we’d be late to an apartment showing. Days later, when I reflected on that moment, I realized my colleague and I (both Manhattan-dwellers) were the only people surprised, let alone irritated, by that transportation failure. And we weren’t even trying to get to work. 

With all the recent reporting on New York’s failing subway system, the bigger picture often gets lost in the exasperation of having to wait extra time to get to Wall Street or Times Square or a doctor’s appointment in a different neighborhood. What happens to those struggling to get to work or school seven days a week from the other boroughs, because they can’t afford to live closer?

A recent study from Harvard found that geographic mobility was indeed linked to economic mobility, and a 2014 study from NYU found a link between poor public-transit access and higher rates of unemployment and decreased income in New York City. 

Poor proximity to transportation makes jobs more difficult to attain or maintain. Along with access to needed goods and services. 

Too many New Yorkers have few transit options to get to work. Some neighborhoods don’t have subway lines within walking distance, and what buses reach them have intermittent service or require numerous transfers. More often than not, people are forced to take lower-paying jobs within their strapped communities in order to pay the rent. 

Reports also point to inaccessibility of healthcare options. Many of our most vulnerable citizens can’t access decent hospitals or medical centers, so preventable conditions become chronic and life-threatening instead.

Our youth also struggles with upward mobility. Living in areas that lack adequate transportation limits education options. Students need efficient and affordable transportation in order to work towards breaking the poverty cycle. 

This inequality has wide economic repercussions that trickle down to those most in need. 

Numerous international cities, like Hong Kong, have found creative solutions to improving and expanding service. We can too. 

Like many New Yorkers and tourists, I’m happy to hop on the MTA to see a performance at BAM, picnic in historic Fort Tryon Park, visit the Bronx Zoo, grab a bite in Queens, or visit Staten Island’s lesser-known 9/11 memorial. So why not invest in a “Five-Borough” Metro Card that contributes to developing those local economies? I’d gladly pay $20 for a card that offers incentives while contributing to the improvement of public transportation. 

Connecting our boroughs for entertainment can entice and encourage a broader view of ALL of New York City and provide desperately-needed revenue to repair and build transportation to those in need and meet Lady Liberty’s promised opportunities.

Holly Lynch New Yorker