Kheel’s plan for MTA: free buses, slashed fares

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Transit officials have mentioned fare hikes of 23 percent, but Theodore “Ted” Kheel would provide free buses 24 hours a day with subway straphangers paying only during rush hour and no more than $1.25.

Kheel said vehicular traffic in Manhattan is at an all−time worst, costing the city mega−billions and something must be done.

“We’re not telling people not to ride in automobiles,” Kheel said. “We’re simply saying you ought to pay your share.”

Kheel, a renowned labor lawyer and arbitrator for decades, responded at City Hall Dec. 16 to the suggestions of the Ravitch Commission on how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could cope with its $1.2 billion budget gap.

“Not only does the automobile divert riders from mass transit, it drains our economy,” said Kheel, 94, who has been advocating for public transit since the 1950s.

“The Partnership for New York [an urban advocacy and planning agency] put out a report two years ago that the Ravitch Commission appears to have forgotten, if they ever read it,” Kheel said. “The report found that the costs of congestion to our city exceeds $2 billion in lost business and revenue, $6 billion in lost time and productivity, $2 billion in wasted fuel and operating costs, $3 [billion] to $4 billion in lost regional output and up to 50,000 lost jobs.

“Can a city that labors under such a handicap support additional taxes to pay for the transit system that this same traffic is undermining?” Kheel asked.

Kheel’s congestion pricing plan differs from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s, which died without introduction to the state Legislature.

“Instead, I have proposed a plan with two parts,” Kheel said. “Part 1 offers free transit for most of the day and drastically reduces mass transit fares in other cases, as a way to entice motorists out of their cars and reward New Yorkers who already take transit.

“Part 2 raises tolls on car traffic — the only reasonable way, I believe, to reduce the traffic congestion that is choking our city.”

The Kheel Plan would:

• provide free 24−hour−a−day city transit buses

• slash subway fares, which would range from 50 cents to $1.25 and would be effective only during rush hours

• reduce rush hour crowding on buses and subways

• improve daytime traffic speeds in the Manhattan central business district by one−third and

• speed up bus travel time by 15 percent by reducing passenger boarding time.

The Kheel system would provide $1 billion annually for the MTA.

Automobiles, except medallion taxis driving into Manhattan south of 60th Street, would pay an average toll of $16, depending on the time of day. Trucks would be tolled at twice the auto rate.

Tolls on other MTA bridges and tunnels would be raised 25 percent. Medallion taxis would pay a 46 percent surcharge.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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