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Christine Quinn Wants One-Hour Cap on New Yorkers' Commutes

By Jill Colvin | April 11, 2013 3:45pm

NEW YORK CITY — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn thinks no New Yorker should have to travel more than an hour to get to work.

In a speech outlining her vision for mass transit Thursday, the early frontrunner in the mayor's race said the city is being hobbled by long commute times, which force too many straphangers to waste hours each week stuck underground in subways or trapped on buses.

"Today I'm setting a clear goal," she said at LaGuardia Community College. "By the year 2023, not a single New Yorker should have to spend more than hour commuting in either direction," she said.

To help achieve that goal, Quinn called for a series of changes.

She said she'd fight to wrest control of the MTA from Albany, and called for the mayor to be given the power to appoint the president of New York City Transit, the MTA agency that controls the city's subways and buses.

She also wants the mayor to appoint the majority of board members.

"Having the buck stop with the mayor will bring much-needed accountability," she told the group, vowing to "spend the next year working in Albany with the Governor and the legislature to finally make it happen."

Another board member, she said, should represent the riding public, giving riders more say over the transit system.

Quinn also called for more buses. Instead of building new, costly subways, she said the city should expand its Select Bus Service, adding 10 new routes over the next four years.

Those could include a line on the North Shore of Staten Island, running from Snug Harbor to the Saint George Ferry Terminal, a line in the South Bronx running from Soundview to Hunts Point, or one along Utica Avenue, running from Bed-Stuy to Marine Park, she said.

Buses should also be used to connect subways lines farther into the outer boroughs, she said, so that people don't have to travel into Manhattan to change lines.

Quinn also called for an expansion of ferry service, with new stops in Brooklyn at Atlantic Avenue and in Red Hook, in Astoria, Queens, on Roosevelt Island, as well at East 91st Street in Manhattan and Ferry Point Park in The Bronx.

And she endorsed a plan to extend the Metro North rail line into Penn Station, which could provide new stops in neighborhoods including Co-Op City and Hunts Point and along Manhattan's West Side.

Gene Russianoff, chief spokesman for the NYPIRG's Straphangers Campaign, said that a total city takeover of the MTA was unlikely, but said the next mayor should fight for more city control.

"Honestly, I think the best the mayor probably can do is to have a vigorous input into who runs the subway and bus system," he said, adding that, overall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had been less invested in transit issues than some previous mayors.

But Quinn said she thought the plan, which has been proposed by other candidates, including former MTA Chair Joe Lhota, a Republican, was "very viable."

"If you don't try, it's certainly not going to happen," she said, pointing to mayoral control of schools as an example of a change that many thought could never be done.

At a separate press conference in Brooklyn Tuesday, Bloomberg said that when he was first running for mayor, he, too, had proposed a city takeover of the MTA, but dropped the plan following 9/11.

“The economics of the world changed with 9/11," he said.

Still, he praised the MTA's current operations as well as the candidate many expect him to endorse to succeed him as mayor.

“Chris Quinn is certainly worth listening to," he said.