NYC Council to hold hearing on ‘transportation deserts,’ neighborhoods with poor access to transit

Lawmakers want to know where light rail, ferries and buses can be added.

The City Council is considering 11 new transit-related bills and resolutions, and officials will testify at a hearing Thursday on “transportation deserts.”

The bills and resolutions are part of a sweeping plan introduced by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez last month, which ranged from lowering rail tickets within the city to adding wind turbines on MTA trains and ending subway deaths.

The hearing will look at two bills and two resolutions that would boost access to public transportation in neighborhoods with little access.

“We have many communities in New York City, throughout the five boroughs, that can still be connected with mass transit — buses, trains, ferries and bicycles,” said Rodriguez, who chairs the transportation committee.

One bill would require the city’s DOT and MTA to study where light rail could be added, and another would make it mandatory for the agencies to give recommendations every five years on connecting transportation deserts.

Two resolutions would urge the MTA to study how they can use unused tracks for increased passenger service, and to allow riders on LIRR and Metro-North within the city to pay the cost of a subway trip.

Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder will testify Thursday about how unused rails in Queens from the former Rockaway Beach LIRR line that is abandoned now can be used for passenger service. The track bed can be used to add additional service that would complement the crowded A line in the Rockaways.

“Queens in particular has been shortchanged by the city and the MTA for so long, and it’s about time we invest in every community,” he said.

“All we would have to do is lay new track, it would allow more connectivity between various neighborhoods.”

Riders’ advocates will testify as well.

“We have a real problem when almost a million New Yorkers travel more than an hour each way to work and home, and a growing number of riders walk long distances to reach the subway,” said Masha Burina, community organizer for the Riders Alliance.

“This sort of attention to transit deserts is a vital step toward making public transit work for everyone, not just people who live in Manhattan or directly adjacent to subway lines.”

Other transportation bills and resolutions recently introduced in the City Council would require the DOT to create or approve an app that would let drivers exchange unused parking meter time, and would require the agency to release more information on bike-related deaths.

New legislation would also call on the DOT to study the safety of pedestrians on bike routes, and require apartment buildings to let cyclists bring bikes on elevators.

Rebecca Harshbarger