Happy 48th birthday to Queens public transportation

| lpenner@queenscourier.com |

The success of public transportation can be traced back to one of the late President Lyndon Johnson’s greatest accomplishments which continues benefiting many Americans today. On July 10th, 1964 he signed the “Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964″ into law. Subsequently this has resulted in the investment over time of several hundred billion dollars into public transportation.

Millions of Americans including many residing in Queens County today on a daily basis utilize various public transportation alternatives. They include local and express bus, ferry, jitney, light rail, subway and commuter rail services. All of these systems use less fuel and move far more people than conventional single occupancy vehicles. Most of these systems are funded with your tax dollars thanks to President Johnson.

Depending upon where you live, consider the public transportation alternative. Try riding a local or express bus, commuter van, ferry, light rail, commuter rail or subway.

As a elementary school student during the 60s – I remember going to the Flushing World’s Fair from the City Line. We boarded Schenck Bus, a private bus operator. They extended their route from Glen Cove via the City Line to downtown Flushing, right up to the World’s Fair entrance. In those days, the drivers made change and drove the bus at the same time. Nobody would dare bring soda or food on the bus or leave any litter behind.

Fast forward to today. Fortunately we have the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and its various operating agencies, including New York City Transit subway and bus, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, Staten Island Rapid Transit Authority and MTA Bus.

Chartered by the State Legislature in 1965 as the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (MCTA), it was created to purchase and operate the bankrupt Long Island Rail Road. The MCTA changed its name to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in 1968 when it took over operations of the New York City Transit Authority. Previously, in 1953 the old NYC Board of Transportation passed on control of the municipal subway system, including all its assets to the newly created New York City Transit Authority. In 1968, the MTA also acquired through lease the New York State commuter trackage of Penn Central’s Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines, contracting their subsidized operation to Penn Central. In 1976, they became part of Conrail. In 1983 the Metro-North Railroad was formed to take over all of Conrail’s New York State commuter operations. The MTA took over all service in 1983, as the Metro North Railroad.

The ancestors to MTA Bus that operated in NYC were eight private bus operators. These included Steinway Bus and Queens Transit, (which combined to become Queens Surface Bus Corporation along with Green Bus, Jamaica Bus and Triboro Coach. They all provided both local service in Queens and express to Manhattan. Command Bus (previously Pioneer Bus ran local service) in Brooklyn with express routes to Manhattan. New York Bus and Liberty Lines Bronx Express operating primarily express routes from the Bronx to Manhattan. Onc could also travel around NYC using their services. Several years ago, NYC took over the franchises and entered into long term leases for utilization of the facilities owned by these operators. The city between 2005 and 2006 entered into an agreement with the MTA transferring their routes and equipment to the newly created MTA Bus. All of these private bus operators previously received capital and operating assistance from both the New York City Department of Transportation and New York state. There is also New Jersey Transit (NJT), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PATH) and New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) Staten Island Ferry.

Using MTA Metro Cards provides free transfers between the subway and bus. This has eliminated the old two fare zones making public transportation an even better bargain. Purchasing a monthly Long Island Rail Road or MTA subway/bus pass reduces the cost per ride and provides virtually unlimited trips.

Elected officials and government employees can turn in their taxpayers funded vehicles and join the rest of us by using public transportation to get around town. In many cases, employers can offer transit checks which help subsidizes a portion of the costs. Utilize this and reap the benefits. It supports a cleaner environment.

Many employers now allow employees to telecommute and work from home. Others use alternative work schedules which afford staff the ability to avoid rush hour gridlock. This saves travel time and can improve mileage per gallon. Join a car or van pool to share the costs of commuting.

The ability to travel from home to workplace, school, shopping, entertainment, medical, library etc. is a factor when moving to a new neighborhood. Economically successful communities are not 100% dependent on automobiles as the sole means of mobility. Seniors, students, low and middle income people need these transportation alternatives. Investment in public transportation today contributes to economic growth, employment and a stronger economy. Dollar for dollar, it is one of the best investments we can make.