2015-07-15 / Front Page

Happy 51st Birthday To Queens Public Transportation

BY LARRY PENNER

The success of public transportation can be traced back to one of the late President Lyndon Johnson’s greatest accomplishments which continues benefiting many Americans today. On July 9, 1964 he signed the “Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964” into law. Subsequently this has resulted in the investment over time of several hundred billion dollars into public transportation.


Millions of Americans, including many residing in Queens County, today on a daily basis utilize various public transportation alternatives. They include local and express bus, ferry, jitney, light rail, subway and commuter rail services. All of these systems use less fuel and move far more people than conventional single occupancy vehicles. Most are funded with your tax dollars, thanks to President Johnson.


Depending upon where you live, consider the public transportation alternative. Try riding a local or express bus, commuter van, ferry, light rail, commuter rail or subway.


Up until the ‘60s – I remember bus drivers made change and drove the bus at the same time. Nobody would dare bring soda or food on the bus or leave any litter behind.


Chartered by the State Legislature in 1965 as the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (MCTA), it was created to purchase and operate the bankrupt Long Island Rail Road. The MCTA changed its name to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in 1968 when it took over operations of the New York City Transit Authority. Previously, in 1953 the old NYC Board of Transportation passed on control of the municipal subway system, including all its assets to the newly created NYCTA. In 1968, the MTA also acquired through lease the New York State commuter trackage of Penn Central’s Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines, contracting their subsidized operation to Penn Central. In 1976, they became part of Conrail. In 1983 the Metro-North Railroad was formed to take over all of Conrail’s New York state commuter operations. The MTA took over all service in 1983, as the Metro-North Railroad.


The ancestors to MTA Bus that operated in NYC were eight private bus operators. Some of these included Steinway Bus and Queens Transit, (which combined to become Queens Surface Bus Corporation along with Green Bus, Jamaica Bus and Triboro Coach. They all provided both local service in Queens and express to Manhattan.


Ten years ago, NYC took over the franchises and entered into long term leases for utilization of the facilities owned by these operators. The city in 2005 entered into an agreement with the MTA transferring their routes and equipment to the newly created MTA Bus. All of these private bus operators previously received capital and operating assistance from both the NYC Department of Transportation and New York State.


Fast forward to today. Fortunately we have the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and its various operating agencies, including New York City Transit subway and bus, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, Staten Island Rapid Transit Authority and MTA Bus.


There is also New Jersey Transit (NJT), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PATH) and NYCDOT Staten Island Ferry.


Using MTA MetroCards provides free transfers between the subway and bus. This has eliminated the old two-fare zones, making public transportation an even better bargain. Purchasing a monthly Long Island Rail Road or MTA subway/bus pass reduces the cost per ride and provides virtually unlimited trips.


The ability to travel from home to workplace, school, shopping, entertainment, medical, library etc. is a factor when moving to a new neighborhood. Economically successful communities are not 100 percent dependent on automobiles as the sole means of mobility. Seniors, students, low- and middle-income people need these transportation alternatives. Investment in public transportation today contributes to economic growth, employment and a stronger economy. Dollar for dollar, it is one of the best investments we can make.


Legislation to fund the national Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account which finances public transportation continues to be deadlocked in Washington. It will run out of money by the end of July and has expired. Most Americans, be they urban, suburban or rural residents; Democrat or Republican; liberal or conservative benefit from good public transportation, roads and bridges.


The national gasoline tax used to support the Highway Trust fund was last raised to 18.4 cents in 1993. Taking action to raise this tax by only pennies per gallon could result in an ample robust Highway Trust fund today.


With continuing gridlock and partisan bickering in Washington, renewal of the Highway Trust Fund and accompanying Mass Transit Account could be the one issue everyone should agree on. Wouldn’t it be great if both Congress and the President could be proud of accomplishing something for a change?


What better way to honor the late President Johnson and all that has been achieved these past 51 years by passage of legislation to continue funding the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account.


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