Students look to revamp city bus service

While NYC may have the slowest buses in the country, these advocates think they can make it one of the best – with the mayor’s help.

Around two dozen students, advocates and politicians stood outside City Hall on Monday to announce a “student bus rider platform,” which includes a series of reforms and investments to the largest municipal fleet of buses in the country.

The platform includes expanding fair fares to college students, advocating for the Mayor to fully fund the NYC Streets Plan and bus improvements, building 30 miles of new busway this year, instituting all-door boarding and permanent One Metro New York (OMNY), the city’s contactless paying system, fare capping on buses.

Some plans like all-door boarding have been on transit advocates’ wishlist for years. Members from Riders Aliance have been advocating for the system since at least 2018, while the Metropolitan Transit Authority has languished to still roll out a pilot program.

While Mayor Adams has pledged to fulfill the promises of the NYC Streets plan, the city’s five-year master plan for transportation, he has not spared the Department of Transportation from across the board cuts in his preliminary budget proposal.

“Traffic congestion has worked back to pre-pandemic levels and commuting patterns have shifted away from the traditional Manhattan-centric model, making efficient and reliable bus service all the more important, particularly in the outer boroughs. Students are among the most transit-dependent in New York City, and they need much better bus service to connect them to school and work opportunities,” Liam Blank, the policy and communications manager for the Tri-State Transportation Committee, said.

David Dugue, a 22-year-old senior at Brooklyn College, is one of those students. His commute from his home in Marine Park to college should take 15 minutes but often takes longer due to delays. But the express bus he has to take is often too expensive, forcing Dugue to make the decision between transportation and food costs. Sometimes, Dugue has to walk home just to be able to have enough money for lunch the next day.

“Why does it have to be like this? To rely on unreliable transit that will make us late even when we wake up on time? Having affordable transportation affords us the agency to go to class,study at the library and attend events like these,” Dugue said. “The lack in investment and planning for transportation has left us in the freezing cold, wet in the rain and flooding in the heat.”

Dugue clarified later in an interview that he felt that Mayor Eric Adams has been more talk than action when it comes to transportation, but that the hard work will be done through pushing the mayor and city council on the policies. Dugue is involved in campus advocacy relating to both the Strap Hangers Campaign and the New York Public Interest Research Group—the two groups that helped host the press conference.

“Many tens of thousands of college students in New York City rely on buses to get to class — but our slow, unreliable bus system is failing them,” Councilman Lincoln Restler said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the New York Public Interest Research Group for their student-led advocacy in demanding new busways, fare equity, and bus improvements. We need to do everything we can to improve our bus system and make our City more just, inclusive, and sustainable.”

Mayor’s new subway safety plan goes into effect

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

A new subway safety plan went into effect on Monday, but homeless advocates fear the “crisis mode” plan doesn’t go far enough to deal with the root causes of the problem.

Mayor Eric Adams announced the initiative as violence in the city’s subway system is on the rise. Even since the Friday announcement, there have been a series of violent attacks.

The plan includes outreach teams for the homeless, cross-agency teams that include clinicians and police, increased police presence and enforcement, and increased availability of safe haven and stabilization beds.

While the mayor’s plan tries to strike a balance between assuring public safety while also helping homeless individuals, advocates say the plan leans too heavily on public safety without getting homeless people the adequate resources they need.

“There are aspects of this report that have an encouraging amount of information, that they’re aware of the problem and some of the root causes of the problem, but the solutions they offer are less about addressing those root causes and are more directed to a crisis mode,” Dr. Deborah Padgett, a professor and researcher on homelessness at NYU Silver, said in an interview.

Dr. Padgett said that models like converting hotels into supportive housing, as former-mayor Bill de Blasio did early in the pandemic, would be one of the primary solutions to addressing homelessness.

Dr. Padgett published a study in 2021 examining the effectiveness of these programs, and in New York found improvements in “general medical and mental health, personal hygiene, feelings of safety (from COVID-19 as well as violence), improved sleep, diet and nutrition, easier access to public assistance such as food stamps, and other advantages of having a stable address for applying for a job.”

The study also cites data from Seattle, where similar programs were enacted, that showed it increased transitions to permanent housing and keeping appointments with health care providers.

“And for those of us who are advocates, it’s not a good sign to increase the police presence, because it’s ultimately going to end up probably criminalizing more than it’s actually going to help homeless persons get off the street or out of the subways,” Dr. Padgett said. “And without someplace for them to go other than crowded shelters, this problem is not going to be resolved.”

Part of the subway safety plan includes joint state and city “Safe Options Support Critical Time Intervention” teams.

Critical Time Intervention was a model developed in the 80’s as a phase-approached of engagement with vulnerable populations to help them adequately transition through periods of life and sustain success after they graduate from a nine-month program.

While the state and city teams utilize the name Critical Time Intervention, one of the creators of the model says the plan falls short of actually achieving it.

“We developed critical time intervention and that does work, but you need somewhere for people to go to help people make a transition,” said Dr. Ezra Susser, director of the Psychiatric Epidemiology Training program at Columbia University. “And if there’s nowhere to transition to, then it’s not really what critical time intervention is.”

Dr. Susser’s model of critical time intervention has proven to be very successful. In a randomized trial at 18 months after the original project started, time spent being homeless was reduced by two-thirds.

The study also found that it was more cost-effective than typical measures.

While the subway safety plan will increase the availability of 140 Safe Haven Beds and nearly 350 Stabilization Beds in 2022, something Dr. Suzzer emphasizes is a good measure, he believes it falls short of really stemming the tide of homelessness.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, there were over 48,000 homeless people in New York City in December 2021.

On the campaign trail, Adams introduced a plan to convert 25,000 hotel rooms into supportive housing for the homeless, but there have been problems making the proposal a reality.

Nonprofits that provide services in supportive housing have taken anywhere from six months to two years to get reimbursed, according to Gothamist. There have also been issues with zoning regulations.

“The city and state need to make a big investment now in order to make a dent in the problem,” said Dr. Susser.

Thank the FTA

Dear Editor,
How disappointing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) forgot to acknowledge the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for providing the funding to pay for the new subway cars purchased on behalf of New York City Transit during a recent ceremony held in Brooklyn marking delivery of the first five cars.
A series of FTA grants to the MTA over several years will pay for most of the base bid of $1.44 billion awarded to Kawasaki to purchase 535 new state-of-the-art R211 subway cars.
They will primarily replace a similar number of subway cars currently operating on the A & C lines that have reached their useful life.
There are also option clauses to the contract that afford the MTA opportunities to purchase up to 1,077 additional cars at a cost of $3.7 billion. FTA funding will also pay for many of these cars, as well.
Sincerely,
Larry Penner
Great Neck

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