Increasing access to public transit for underserved neighborhoods and groups continues to be a challenge in a large city with aging infrastructure. Some policy initiatives outlined here are related to transportation broadly while others speak directly to the disparities measured by specific indicators within this topic. The City has set a number of goals for improving public transit service, and the following policies are all expansions or improvements on existing plans toward these goals.
One of the key policy initiatives at the Transportation topic level is Select Bus Service (SBS), a type of bus rapid transit. SBS is a critical means of transportation, particularly in the outer boroughs that are underserved by subway stations and where buses may run slowly along congested corridors. Additionally, all buses are wheelchair accessible, while many other modes of transportation are not. Most SBS buses feature off-board fare collection, all-door boarding, and dedicated bus lanes, all of which have the potential to reduce time spent in transit, as well as commuting time. In 2016 and 2017, five new SBS routes were implemented, including the B46 on Utica Avenue (the busiest route in Brooklyn), the Q70 (also known as the “LaGuardia Link”), and the Bx6, which serves bus stops with high ridership and transfers to the subway and MetroNorth in the Bronx. The Bx6 is also the first route to include median bus stops, which has further increased the speed of commuters’ rides. Two busy corridors in Manhattan, M23 and M79, also became SBS routes. Twenty-one additional routes are proposed for implementation between now and 2027.
The subject of the first indicator in this topic, race and commuting time, has been in the spotlight for much of 2017 as the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has been plagued with transit delays that have made the longest commutes in the country even longer. In July 2017, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report that highlighted how these delays have disproportionately affected certain groups: residents of outer boroughs experienced worse subway service than those living in Manhattan, and residents of lower income areas were more likely to experience significant delays and face consequences when arriving late to work. The MTA has introduced several initiatives to both address the causes of these delays and communicate more effectively with the public when delays happen. The impact of these initiatives on the commuting time of racial and ethnic minorities may be reflected in later years.
Recent capital projects for new and existing subway stations have contributed to some positive change in the disability and subway accessibility indicator. As part of an agreement with disability advocates from 1994, the MTA has been working toward making 100 “key” subway stations ADA-compliant by 2020. In addition, the new subway stations for the Second Avenue Subway and Hudson Yards are fully accessible. Even with these improvements, however, NYC continues to lag far behind other U.S. cities in reaching 100% accessibility. In April 2017, two class-action lawsuits were filed against the MTA for the lack of subway accessibility for individuals with physical disabilities. In addition, disability advocates have challenged the lack of elevators in recent renovations of subway stations in Brooklyn and planned renovations in Queens.
Following the 2013 settlement of a class action lawsuit, the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has been implementing its plan to make at least 50% of all NYC taxis wheelchair accessible by 2020. This progress is reflected in the disability and taxi accessibility indicator. In 2014, TLC also created the Taxi Improvement Fund, which provides financial incentives for drivers of accessible taxis. These drivers receive an extra 50 cents for every trip, regardless of whether the passenger uses a wheelchair, and an extra payment for picking up passengers through the Accessible Dispatch Program. Accessible taxis are heavier and have lower gas mileage, so these incentives are an important component of the City’s effort to increase the availability of accessible taxis.
The location and bicycle lanes indicator may be affected by the recent expansion of the bike network citywide. The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) was projected to add at least 75 miles of bike lanes in 2016. Eighteen of these miles are fully protected, which is a priority of the Vision Zero Action Plan to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on NYC streets. Bike lanes are still concentrated in Manhattan, however, and in many cases they are not fully protected and, thus, are easy to ignore by motorists. Starting in 2017, DOT committed to adding 10 miles of protected bike lanes every year. DOT has also designated “priority bicycle districts” in 10 Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods where there are both high rates of cyclist deaths and serious injuries and low levels of bicycle network coverage. The agency aims to install or improve 75 miles of bike lanes in these neighborhoods by 2022.