Mayor de Blasio not acting fast enough to save transit opportunities, advocates say

The 14th Street busway during its launch on Oct. 3. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Activists are taking a dim view of what they believe as a lackadaisical approach to mitigating increased traffic from fearful mass transit users turning to cars to avoid getting sick as COVID-19 subsides.

In his Thursday morning press conference, de Blasio said that he had “confidence” there would be metrics of how many people can return to mass transit without the spreading the virus that locked the city down in the first place, but had no guidance of his own.

“For the next few months, people are going to make their own choices. Some people are going to be comfortable on mass transit, some are not,” de Blasio said. “I have a lot of confidence this is all going to sort out in the sort term because a lot of people are yet going to come back to work, they’ll work from home if they can, even in phase one.”

But according to the mayor, his administration will hold meetings with MTA Chair Pat Foye to hash out answers to some of these questions, but left a query about vehicle traffic hanging in the air.

But the situation changes by the day. 

Some businesses across the city have begun to open quietly while traffic on weekdays is at levels of gridlock unseen since the shelter-at-home orders were put in place in March. Meanwhile, New York City Transit is seeing small percentages in ridership increase; 10,000 to 20,000 more people per weekday according to interim President Sarah Feinberg.

Danny Pearlstein, policy director for Riders Alliance, believes the mayor needs to take a more aggressive approach to transportation, not in the tunnels where the state reigns supreme but in the streets where City Hall has authority.

“Mayor de Blasio needs to keep buses moving and stop gridlock from killing New York’s recovery. He should honor the nearly half of bus riders who are essential workers with bus lanes that cement recent bus speed and reliability gains,” Pearlstein said. “If the mayor sticks to a laissez faire approach to transportation, gridlock will engulf ambulances and buses and destroy air quality. More than ever, Mayor de Blasio must act decisively for safe, fair, and efficient streets.”

According to de Blasio, the city could be only two weeks from beginning the first phase of opening up which would allow construction and manufacturing workers to return to their jobs. Drive through retail workers could begin working as well, if the number of hospitalizations continue on a steady downturn for 14 days straight.