There may be reasons to be depressed by the transit budget crisis detailed in Neysa Pranger's article above, but take heart, two thousand and nine (aka twenty oh nine), had some big plusses for transportation. Hidden amidst the doom and gloom are some decided bright lights to give us all hope for the new year and beyond.
A good omen for 2009 occurred in June 2008 when a bus rapid transit line (BRT) opened along Fordham Road in the Bronx. Not strictly a BRT because buses do not always have the road to themselves, it nonetheless operates 30% faster because fares are collected off the bus — a proof-of-payment fare system that allows customers to buy their tickets while waiting for the bus. No longer do customers have to wait while boarding passengers fumble for their MetroCards among the flotsam and jetsam in their pockets and handbags. Never before in New York has this been done, and perhaps this is the first step in doing what is commonplace overseas to make transit faster and collection easier. On Fordham Road it is called a Select Bus Service (SBS). (It is a good thing that in America we don't use the term omnibus or it would have been dubbed SOS). Kudos to the MTA and the NYCDOT (or is it one kudo to each?).
In March 2009 the totally rebuilt South Ferry subway station opened, the first new New York subway station in 20 years (extra points if you know the last one that opened then). No longer will riders be instructed to pass through subway cars to get to the front five cars, an odd thing to ask riders to do when the doors are labeled "do not pass through these doors." No longer will confused tourists and impatient New York civilians both have to wait to alight on the curved platform as platform extenders are unfurled (or whatever platform extenders do, probably just extend). No longer will contraflowing commuters, tourists, Staten Island ferriers (is someone who rides a ferry a ferrier?) collide on one narrow staircase murmuring multiple "excuse me's" if they are from elsewhere, or multiple grunts if they are from around here. Thankfully, after 104 years we have a new station there. Take a trip downtown and check it out. Score one more for the MTA.
In May the latest in a series of Broadway closings occurred. Unlike others on Broadway, this one was not a flop, but a boffo winner, and likely to be running a long time. Broadway has been closed to traffic as it passes though Times and Herald Squares, and rearranged at Madison Square. Traffic moves better because diagonal Broadway no longer messes up intersection traffic, pedestrians have seats to rest their weary feet, and more sidewalk to ease the crush. There are no losers here and even the AAA has been muted in their criticism. Thank you, New York City DOT.
In June the High Line opened, the ultimate in adaptive reuse, or is it re-adaptive use? This remarkable new elevated and vegetated urban linear park from the Gansevoort district though Chelsea has registered a million visitors and counting. It is the talk of the town. If you are reading this you probably have been there, but just in case you have not, hurry over. Do it this week if only to avoid the holiday shopping crowds. Our gratitude goes to this private initiative encouraged by the City government.
And just in, as the newscasters say, the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors has approved a contract to start construction on the new commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson, which will double rail capacity from Saul Steinberg's hinterlands.
RPA is pleased to say that we had a little to do with each of these. But the credit goes to those who have taken each of these ideas from plan to reality. Let us hope that 2010 and the years beyond will be as productive, and that those that have doubted our resolve in the past will be unable to say, "New York, they can't get anything done."