Los Angeles Times

Democrats raise ideas on transportation


Quick and reliable service on the city's roadways, more ferries and upgrading the subways are some of the themes offered by Democrats in this year's mayoral race.

In a city where a traffic jam is never too far away and potholes are a source for late-night comedy, tackling congestion is one thread that runs through the proposals of each of the candidates.

The Democrats seeking to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg offer suggestions to improve service in many areas, though few new ideas are on the table.

"Transportation is not just about trains and cars and things on wheels. It's about how people get to and from work and it's the underpinning of economic development," said Councilman John Liu, chairman of the council's transportation committee. "I think that point needs to be understood more deeply by all of the candidates."

In an effort to reduce car dependency and encourage mass transit use, two candidates -- City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Rep. Anthony Weiner -- stress more efficient ways to keep buses out of traffic jams by using unspecified technology to reduce red lights and create bus-only routes.

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields has proposed legalizing private passenger vans to supplement buses.Below ground, the Second Avenue subway line is on the list of priorities for all the candidates, and ideas such as extending the No. 7 line are on some lists.

And Weiner is passionate about a plan to create a high-speed ferry network across the city and expand current service to link other communities such as Red Hook and Kennedy Airport.

"I'm ferry obsessed," he said during a recent interview. Ferries will ease road congestion, he said.

Fields and Miller are also pushing to expand ferries and create a a loop system. Miller wants new connection points in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

There's some disagreement over how to treat congestion.

Weiner said he opposes the suggestion by Fernando Ferrer to use tolls on bridges and tunnels to discourage traffic into Manhattan, a topic raised in the first mayoral debate.

"I disagree with Mr. Ferrer that the MTA should be increasing tolls on our bridges," Weiner said.

The congressman said offering incentives to companies to make truck deliveries at night was better than raising tolls and fines.

Ferrer, in an e-mailed response, said: "I support MTA measures that include a combination of tolls and discounts for everyday users. E-ZPass, for example, eases congestion, particularly during rush hour, and does not penalize people who must get to work, but rather gives them a discount."

Miller said E-ZPass type discounts are good and also backs incentives to ease truck traffic. And he said a system should be in place to catch drivers who block intersections.

Fields expressed supprt for the idea in the debate and through a spokeswoman this week.

"I'm open to the idea of congestion pricing because it will reduce traffic at certain times of the day and it will, of course, increase revenue," Fields told the debate audience.

Fields, in a statement outlining her transportation concerns, calls for the legalization and regulation of commuter vans, known widely as "dollar vans." The vans serve commuters in outer boroughs in neighborhoods with poor transit bus service.

The statement called the vans a "valuable and necessary service that supplements buses. Serves immigrant communities and connects riders from the outer boroughs."

Ferrer and Miller have blasted the mayor for not doing more to push the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to accelerate spending of federal funds to improve transit security.

Miller proposes that the president of the NYC Transit be answerable to the mayor. In addition, he would appoint an inspector general to "root out waste." Fields wants the MTA to reduce debt and sell property for the highest price.

Ferrer has directed a sizeable share of attacks against the mayor over transit issues that focus mainly on security-related themes. Throughout the campaign, he has called for more police underground, as well as better security and surveillance measures like the ones finally announced recently.

He also called for an advisory council to improve mass transit security, and better coordinate among agencies and between the city and federal government on how to spend federal funds for security.

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