NYC Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the New York City Council Transportation Committee sponsored an oversight hearing to discuss the transit needs of outer borough commuters.
The hearing was in response to a report, published in June of 2011 by the Center for an Urban Future, which showed job gains for the outer boroughs in spite of the ongoing recession and highlighted a need for better transit services to job centers outside the Manhattan core. In addition, the number of commuters who travel to work within their home borough or a neighboring borough or suburban county has been increasing at a faster rate than the number of commuters who travel into the Manhattan core. These shifting commuting patterns point to an important need for improved transit service outside of Manhattan.
Bronx Borough Presdent Diaz testified saying that the idea of providing one-seat rail transportation to Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point is the most dynamic, and potentially the most important, transportation investment in the Bronx since construction of the subways during the early 20th century. Indeed, following the opening of the Inter-Borough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway lines to the Bronx during the 1920’s, the borough’s population increased by 530,000 residents. Thanks to the foresight and tenacity of those who were responsible for this critical investment at that time, these subways made the Bronx one of the most prosperous counties in the nation and the fastest growing borough of New York City.
Now, nearly one century, later we are on the cusp of a project that, for the cost projected, has the potential of being one of the most cost-effective and beneficial transportation endeavors for not just the Bronx, but the entire region. As envisioned Metro North Railroad, using existing track infrastructure, would offer rail transportation to approximately 160,000 Bronx residents who reside within one mile of the following locations:
Co-op City—a community of 60,000 people.
Morris Park—a community of 14,600 residents plus approximately 4,000 people working at the Hutchinson Metro Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Parkchester—a community of condominiums and residences approximating 40,000 residents.
Hunts Point—a community of approximately 46,000 residents and home to one of the world’s largest food distribution markets, doing approximately $2 billion in business annually.
In addition to the obvious benefits Bronx residents would realize by having access to Manhattan in less than forty minutes, for the first time Bronxites could reach suburban employment centers without reliance on a car. Likewise, commuters to Westchester and Fairfield counties cold reach Bronx employment destinations without the need for a vehicle. This saves energy while reducing harm to our environment. The end result is an improved quality of life for the Bronx, along with increasing real estate values.
Finally, for suburban commuters who now reach Grand Central Terminal and then must transfer to subways for access to Manhattan’s west side, this new service to Penn Station will offer a choice similar to that now being made possible for Long Island Railroad passengers who prefer Grand Central access. Combined, these two new services would dramatically cut commute times, along with reducing overcrowding on our subways.
It should therefore come as no surprise that, when I convened a meeting with Metro North officials, community businesses and those representing many East Bronx neighborhoods, a capacity turnout was realized-with everyone present expressing their strong support for Penn Station access. Similarly, when the Bronx office of the Department of City Planning called a meeting at Fordham University to consider their study on Metro North services to various Bronx locations, representatives from Stamford, Connecticut joined those in the Bronx in support of East Bronx railroad transit.
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) points out
For every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 is generated
For every $10 million invested in capital improvements, $30 million in business is realized.
The Regional Planning Association (RPA) says that real property values increase by 7% if located within ½ mile of a new railroad station and 5% within one mile of a new station.
If the Bronx, and indeed the entire service region of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), is to realize its full potential both as a place to live and as a place of commerce, time efficient, cost effective and environmentally sound transportation must be available. East Bronx railroad service satisfies every one of these prerequisites. Therefore, making it happen is a top priority of my administration.