Riders need updated transit system: Quinn

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (r.) spoke at a news conference at LaGuardia Community College, saying city commutes are too long. Photo by Philip Newman
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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Democratic front-runner for mayor, says New York City’s transit system badly needs modernizing because too many straphangers are spending an hour getting to work.

She also said it was time the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was under control of the mayor of New York City.

Quinn, who spoke at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, told of a woman she called Judy from Far Rockaway.

Judy commutes to her job at the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center.

“It takes her almost two hours on the subway to make the 21-mile trip,” Quinn said. “To put that in perspective, it takes the same amount of time to travel the 90 miles from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Terminal on Metro-North.”

The problem for multitudes of commuters is that the transit system is obsolete, Quinn said.

“Next October, our transportation system will be 110 years old,” Quinn said. “When the subway started running in 1904, there were about 4 million people in New York City and over half of them lived in Manhattan.”

She said fewer than 200,000 lived in Queens at that time.

Manhattan accounts for less than a fifth of the population now and Queens has 2.3 million residents and Brooklyn counts almost 2.6 million.

Quinn said Manhattan had suffered a net loss of jobs, but all the other boroughs had gained jobs.

“But the system still runs as though the majority of New Yorkers still live and work in Manhattan,” she said.

The speaker said New York City should take over the MTA with the mayor in charge, an idea which is not new.

She proposed adding a voting representative of the transit riding public to the MTA board “to give riders real, meaningful input on their transit system.”

“If we want to remain the economic capital of the world and continue to rebuild our economy, if we want to keep New York a place for middle-class and working families, then we need to rebuild a transportation system that serves the needs of the 21st century,” Quinn said.

Quinn said she would add over a four-year period 10 new Select Bus Service routes — buses with pre-boarding ticketing that travel in lanes restricted to other vehicles — in Staten Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

She said the Select Bus lines cost about $1 million per mile to operate rather than $1 billion a mile, which is what it costs to build a new subway route.

She also called for extending ferry service.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or phone at 718-260-4536.

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