TL;DR: The New York Times Treats Transportation, Congestion, Car Culture as an Afterthought
Late on Monday, the Times dropped its annual super-well-produced, erudite, cheeky, slick, authoritative … and ultimately shallow overview of the mayoral candidates’ positions on what the Paper of Record believes are the most important issues.
TL;DR — the Gray Lady did her usual drive-by when it comes to transportation.
Want to watch the whole thing? Be our guest. But if you only have five minutes — and if you care most about the future of our currently inequitable transit system, our congested streets, the danger of cars, the failure of the de Blasio administration to get to the zero of Vision Zero, the racially biased manner in which the NYPD polices public space — here’s all you need to know:
The Brooklyn Borough President emphasized public safety, but was asked only one question about transportation by reporter Emma Fitzsimmons: “What is key to improving public transportation: Would you focus on modernizing the subway or improving bus-only lanes?”
He emphasized electric buses, which the mayor does not control.
The former de Blasio counsel focused on her “New Deal New York” plan. But she did get a few chances to talk about transportation. When asked about climate change, she mentioned buildings, but also “transportation and cars.” But her answer boiled down to “investing in renewables” to get towards being a carbon-neutral city — nothing was said about car-reduction strategies.
But Fitzsimmons followed up: “Do you think we should move toward a car-free Manhattan? Tell us about your vision for reducing congestion around the city.”
Wiley’s answer: “We have to get folks out of cars. But we have to do it in a way that recognizes we’ve made it far too difficult to get where people need to go quickly and safely. And that means investing in public transportation, particularly where we have transit deserts in the city.”
She then went on to reiterate her desire to create an Office of Open Space Management, which would increase the amount of open space such as parks and open streets, but also “increase transportation alternatives, including more buses and the things that bring our very long commute times down.” (Is this even an answer? Re-read it, please, and tell us if there’s actually a plan there.)
The supposed entrepreneur and short-lived darling of the presidential race was asked was not asked about transportation at all, but he was asked about police reform. He said he favors a civilian police commissioner.
He also said his fitness routine is “to ride a bicycle around.”
In the lightning round, he admitted he jumped on the Mets bandwagon in 1986.
The former Sanitation Commissioner was specifically asked about improving transportation (same question that Adams faced, word for word). Garcia said that the city should invest in subway improvements, but also expand buses (an MTA responsibility). She did put in a good word for transit signal priority — which she called “the technology that turns the light green for a bus and allows it to zip right through.”
Reporter Katie Glueck also asked about building a seawall around the city as her way into a discussion of climate change. Garcia said she has “a robust climate change,” but she didn’t address cars, talking vaguely about decarbonizing the economy and, more specifically, composting and electrifying school buses.
The city comptroller and one-time liberal darling said he would “manage the hell out of the city.” He was asked about a “car-free Manhattan,” which he supports, but was not asked specifically about transit. He did say that the next mayor must “think about how we can reimagine our streets” and lay down more dedicated bus and bike lanes.
“There’s no reason that we should continue to operate in the super-highway Robert Moses era,” he said. “To reduce car traffic, we have to close streets permanently … and model things after Copenhagen and Paris. But the car culture has to end.”
When asked about a seawall, Stringer said he didn’t think it would work. He favors “actually investing in the green economy” and “put a solar panel on every roof [and] an electric battery in every basement.”
He also said he would “reduce police interactions in communities of color.”
Interestingly, he said he thought David Dinkins was the best mayor of his lifetime.
The former non-profit executive said she would dramatically reduce the budget of the NYPD and desegregate the school system. On transportation, she was asked the same question Adams and Garcia got. She said she favors “starting with the things that we can control … the busways.”
And on climate change and transportation, she said she favored a Green New Deal for New York City so we make the investments that we need.
And on police reform, she said, “I don’t believe we can reform the police department. We need to transform it.”
The former housing commissioner (for the U.S. and New York City) touted his experience at multiple levels of government. He was asked the car-free Manhattan question, and totally punted. “I don’t know that we’ll ever get to a completely car-free Manhattan,” he said. “especially if we can ensure that electric vehicles are everywhere, that we have charging stations, and that we don’t have cars that pollute our city.” (Terrible answer, of course, given that drivers of electric cars will kill hundreds of people every year, just as drivers of non-electric cars do currently.)
He recovered by saying, “But I do think we have to make sure that we put people first … by ensuring that every community has access to public transit [such as] real bus rapid transit.”
On police reform, he said “we need to end the epidemic of violence against Black and brown New Yorkers … and reduce what we are asking the police to do.” He said police should be focused solely on guns and violent crime.
He did say that he performed in a high school production of “Oliver” at the Schubert Theater (he was not in the lead role).