Unequal bus and subway services across New York City's five Boroughs


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In 2009 I was the John J Marchi Visiting Scholar in Public Policy at the City University of New York. These are my slides from the public Marchi lecture I gave there focusing on justice in distribution of transit services, with Manhattan getting the lion's share compared to the other borough.

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Unequal bus and subway services across New York City's five Boroughs

  1. 1. Ethical Conundrums:Justice and Equity in NewYork City TransportationDr. Cameron GordonJohn J. Marchi Visiting Scholar in Public PolicyCity University of New York – College of Staten Island –Philosophy, Economics and Political Science DepartmentCenter for the Study of Staten IslandSenior Lecturer in Banking and FinanceUniversity of Canberra (Australia)Faculty of Business and Government
  2. 2. A note on data and mapsData and maps for this presentation(unless otherwise noted) wereproduced by the High PerformanceComputing Center (HPC) at theCollege of Staten Island – CityUniversity of New YorkWeblink:http://www.csi.cuny.edu/cunyhpc/
  3. 3. Item6% of toll revenues inthe US are collectedon the Borough ofStaten Island......yet Staten Islandconsistently has one ofthe worst averagecommute times in thecountry.
  4. 4. ItemMore than a million people in theborough of Queens live more thana half mile beyond a subway stopbecause of population expansionbeyond where the subway stoppedexpanding circa 1940.......yet the MTA is spending over $17billion to build the Second Avenuesubway, the first leg on the UpperEast Side of Manhattan parallelingthe Lexington Avenue 4,5 and 6line.
  5. 5. Item Despite the MTAscurrent budget crisis,the New York Citygovernment says it iscommitted to providingperhaps more thanhalf the funds for the$2.1 billion 7 lineextension to the westside of Manhattan,(though scaling backthat line by eliminatingthe 10thAvenuestop)...
  6. 6. ...yet because of that same budget crisis hasproposed cutting service in half on the onlysubway line that does not go throughManhattan, the G train from Brooklyn to Queens
  7. 7. Speaking of doomsday budgets…• The MTA budget just passed contains thefollowing:• Starting May 31, subway and bus fares willbe $2.50 and the 30-day cards will be $103,up from $81. Express bus fares will rise from$5 to $6.25• 35 bus routes will be eliminated and twosubway routes, the W and Z. Off-peak andweekend subway, bus and commuter railservice will also be cut. The G train will nolonger serve Queens.• Commuter rail fares will increase on June 1,and bridge and tunnel tolls will increase inmid-July, the maximum Verrazano Bridgefare to $13(!).
  8. 8. Ethical transport conundrumsThe items presented above can be said to beethical transportation conundrums.They represent difficult and intricate problems ofseeming unfairness of treatment between differentgroups.Their starkness – and persistence – suggest thatthey have long since become rhetorical questionsrather than problems to be solved.Their occasional absurdity makes some ask, inclassic New York parlance: “What gives?”
  9. 9. Equity in New York CityTransportationIn this lecture I will focus on a single question:how equitable is transportation in New York City?I will not give simple answers to this question asthere are none but I will identify where some of theanswers may be found.Throughout this discussion I will refer toconundrums that point to what we know, what wedont know, and what we need to know to developa coherent policy that deals with transportationequity, in New York City and beyond.
  10. 10. Keeping it simpleThe simplest concept of equity is horizontalequity which is how people of similarcharacteristics are treated with respect to a specificpolicy; an example would be whether people withsimilar abilities to pay taxes in fact bear similarlevels of taxation.I will thus define transportation equity as thedegree to which people throughout the city havesimilar access to transport services and pay thesimilar costs per unit of those services.This resonates with notions that individuals areequal under the law and that transportation is abasic right and requirement of citizenship.
  11. 11. A measure of equity: the LorenzCurveA technical note: oneexample of an equity metricis the Lorenz Curve (LC).Here is a typical LCshowing how much of totalincome that a portion oftotal population has.Perfect equality is asituation where theproportion of total incomeand proportion of totalpopulation is equal at allpoints.
  12. 12. But is it fair?Should there be absolute equality betweenpopulation and income … or transport services …or housing … or anything?This is an important question that I will not beaddressing in this lecture.Nonetheless, the starting point is to ask: is thereinequality in the transportation system and if sohow much and in what areas?Having established the “what is” we can thenaddress the “what should be”.
  13. 13. Measuring transportation equity in New York CitySo how would one define horizontal equity inNew York City transportation?Keeping it simple I will do the following:(1) Take the total population of New York City(2) See what proportion of that total populationlives in each borough(3) See what proportion of total transportationsystem costs and benefits are borne or enjoyedby the total population in each borough.If (2) and (3) match then we can say there isrough horizontal equity in transportation.This is very crude but Ill go with it for now.
  14. 14. Population and area per borough•The 2000 US Census shows that the largest borough interms of population was Brooklyn, accounting for almostone-third of the Citys total; Queens was a close second,the two containing 60% of the total.•Queens meanwhile contained more than one-third of theCitys total area.County Population % share Area % shareSq MilesBronx 17% 42 14%Brooklyn 31% 71 23%Manhattan 19% 23 8%Queens 28% 109 36%Staten Island 6% 58 19%NYCTotal 100% 303 100% 1,354,0682,488,1941,546,8562,237,815457,383 8,084,316
  15. 15. A Question…• So do the boroughs getproportions of the services– buses, trains, andsubways – that thetransportation systemoffers that roughly matcheither their share of totalpopulation or total area?
  16. 16. • Here is a summary lookat the transit rail networkin New York City.• The network was mostlybuilt before 1940 soManhattan is obviouslyvery well served, much ofBrooklyn, parts of theBronx and some ofQueens is reasonably wellserved.• But Staten Island doesnot have a subway andthe rail it does havemisses much of theIsland’s population.• Eastern Queens isalso poorly served.Source: NYMTC
  17. 17. • Here’s a particularly interesting set of maps fromNew York City DOT.• Here the gaps in the city subway are especiallyclear, and the gap in the regional commuter railnetwork is even more stark.• Buses look better but Manhattan definitely hasmuch denser bus network than the rest of theCity.
  18. 18. * Here’s an analysis of the borough-by-borough spread ofbus routes and bus route miles.* This measure shows that in terms of numbers of busesand routes there is rough proportionality between shareof population and share of bus service in the Bronx andManhattan.* Brooklyn seems relatively under-served and Queens isespecially short-changed.* Staten Island, on the other hand, seems to be makingout very well.ANALYSIS     BUS ROUTES 2002            County Population % total Local % total Express % total Buses % total Route % total    Routes   Routes       Miles  Bronx 1,354,068 17% 40 19% 0 0% 877 19% 255 12%Brooklyn 2,488,194 31% 54 26% 5 13% 1393 31% 520 25%Manhattan 1,546,856 19% 42 20% 4 11% 883 19% 203 10%Queens 2,237,815 28% 40 19% 5 13% 704 15% 309 15%Staten Island 457,383 6% 31 15% 24 63% 709 16% 822 39%     NYC Total 8,084,316 100% 207 100% 38 100% 4566 100% 2109 100%
  19. 19. * Here are the subway stops and route-miles by borough.* Here the proportions look a bit different from buses.* Staten Island appears more proportionate in terms of route miles,less in terms of stops. Brooklyn appears to be well ’subwayed’, theBronx less so, and Queens really comes out as a loser on thismetric.* Manhattan really does well relative to its population.MTA Subway Routes andStopsBorough by BoroughDecember 30th, 2008Subway RouteMiles% total SubwayStops% totalStaten Island 0.260765 6% 19 4%Brooklyn 1.210744 29% 185 34%Manhattan 0.907594 22% 164 30%Queens 0.658569 16% 94 17%Bronx 0.517803 13% 74 14%Total 4.129092 100% 539 100%
  20. 20. What’s the benefit?• These are very crude measures but revealing inthe sense that the nature of transportationalternatives varies rather widely across theboroughs and does not match where thepopulation is located.• But how much does this matter? If everyonecan get to where they are going at roughly equalspeeds and levels of convenience thendifferences in distribution of number oftrains/buses etc. may not matter too much.• How do the boroughs stack up here?
  21. 21. * US Census figures show that the relative availability of transitoptions does radically affect how people get to work.* New York City uses transit much more than the rest of the USbut Manhattanites and Brooklynites use it more than people inother boroughs.* And here is a big kicker – commute times in the outerboroughs is much worse than Manhattan – and worse than therest of the US.PERCENTAGE MODAL SHARE – TRIPS TO WORKUSA Bronx Brooklyn Manhattan Queens Staten IslandDrove Alone 73.2% 27.0% 22.5% 7.6% 34.3% 54.3%Carpool 13.4% 9.3% 8.8% 3.4% 10.2% 12.1%Public Transit 5.3% 53.7% 58.0% 59.6% 47.4% 28.4%Bike or Walk 4.3% 7.5% 8.6% 22.8% 5.9% 3.1%Motorcycle or other 0.9% 0.6% 0.5% 0.8% 0.4% 0.5%Work at home 3.0% 1.9% 1.6% 5.8% 1.8% 1.7%COMMUTE TIME (MINUTESAverage Commute 25.5 43 43.2 30.5 42.2 43.9Mass TransitCommute47.7 54.2 51.8 34.4 54.3 68.6
  22. 22. Comparison of Trip Times Jonathan Peters Based on Scheduled Trip Time and Road MilageNYC Transit - Outer Boroughs The College of Staten IslandVersus Other Systems 30-Mar-05Origin Destination Mode Road Travel Time Mode MPHMileage Minutes ShiftsTottenville, SI, NY42nd Street & 5thAvenueSIRT - SI Ferry - 1&9Subway 33.2 83 3 24.00St George, SI, NY42nd Street & 5thAvenue SI Ferry and 1&9 Subway 17.6 41 2 25.76Tottenville, SI, NY42nd Street & 5thAvenue Express Bus - X-22 33.2 97 1 20.54 * 8:05 AM BusTottenville, SI, NY42nd Street & 5thAvenue Express Bus - X-22 33.2 72 1 27.67 * 5:00 AM BusEltingville Transit Center, SI,NY42nd Street & 5thAvenue Express Bus - X -1 20.8 100 1 12.48 * 8:05 AM BusEltingville Transit Center, SI,NY42nd Street & 5thAvenue Express Bus - X -1 20.8 70 1 17.83 * 5:00 AM BusCastleton Ave & Jewett, SI,NY42nd Street & 5thAvenue Express Bus - X-10 17.3 109 1 9.52 * 8:06 AM BusCastleton Ave & Jewett, SI,NY42nd Street & 5thAvenue Express Bus - X-10 17.3 78 1 13.31 * 5:35 AM BusVictory Blvd, Travis, SI, NY42nd Street & 5thAvenueS-62 - SI Ferry - 1&9Subway 19.3 82 3 14.12* 8:35 AM Bus - MissesBoatVictory Blvd, Travis, SI, NY42nd Street & 5thAvenueS-62 - SI Ferry - 1&9Subway 19.3 96 3 12.06 * 8:35 AM Bus - Actual Travel Time - 9:30 Boat16th Street, San Francisco Freemont, CA BART 38.8 52 1 44.7716th Street, San Francisco,CA Bay Point, CA BART 39.1 59 1 39.76Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn42nd Street & 5thAvenue #2 Subway 9.5 44 1 12.95242nd Street, Bronx42nd Street & 5thAvenue # 2 Subway 13.2 50 1 15.84
  23. 23. Where the growth is•There is another element here – where has the growth inpopulation and transport needs been and where is it heading?As these figures show, population growth has been mostly in theboroughs.Manhattan has lost population from 1950-2000.Yet system investment has not been going to those outerboroughs.1950 to 2000 Population GrowthUnited States: +86.0%New York State: +28.1%Manhattan: -21.5%The Bronx: -8.1%Brooklyn: -9.9%Queens: +43.9%Staten Island: +132.6%
  24. 24. • Here’s another way ofshowing this: the ‘centeror population’ or‘geocenter’ per borough.• If you could somehowplace all the population ona flat plane with eachperson possessing anequal weight and spacebut distributed in differentareas, the ‘geocenter’shows where that planewould balance.•As population spreadsout so does the geocenter.•Look at where thesecenters are – very far out– often far from transit.
  25. 25. * Here is a very recent study of growth in traffic atsubway stops (by the Center for Urban Futures).* Note the lines that have the stations with thefastest growth.* Most of these have heavy service to Queensand Brooklyn.* The ill-fated G has 4 fast growing stops.* But again investment is mostly not going whereneeded.
  26. 26. At what cost?• We’ve been focusing on system benefits.• There is also the issue of cost. Who pays howmuch?• So Staten Island, as an example, has a verylarge share of express bus service overall –63% of total bus routes in 2002.• But these buses costs $5, with a proposedincrease to $6.25.• And Staten Islanders drive across the bridgesmore and are much more subject to tolls.
  27. 27. • Here is amap of theamount oftollrevenuescollectedfrom peoplein differentzip codes.• Darkercolorsindicategreaterburdens.• StatenIsland andBrooklyn areespeciallyhard hit.
  28. 28. A bottom-line?What these metrics indicate is that there is araw mismatch, overall, between the share oftotal population per borough and the share offacilities, service and costs per borough.The level and quality of transportationservice varies widely across the boroughs aswell.This is a very rough and patchy picture.There are a lot more data to look at and a lotmore interpretation to be made.But overall there does seem to be an issueto examine further and change policy over.
  29. 29. More to know: data•Number of subway stops per borough•Subway-miles per borough•Number of subway cars per borough•MTA expenditures per borough: total•MTA expenditures per borough: bus•MTA expenditures per borough: rail•MTA expenditures per borough: commuter rail•MTA revenues per borough: transit fares•MTA revenues per borough: commuter rail•MTA revenues per borough: tolls•Road expenditures per borough (excluding city streets): NYSDOT•Road revenues per borough: Port Authority tolls•Number of people living more than a half-mile from a subway stop, by borough• Jobs/resident ratio per borough•Travel times, average commute, per borough•“Extreme commutes” per borough• Frequency of bus service (scheduled) per borough• Frequency of subway/commuter tail service per borough (scheduled) per borough• Level of road service (LOS) per borough• Road and street physical condition per borough (state of good repair)• Etc...
  30. 30. More to know: conceptsFor this particular lecture I have focused only onsimple and broad measures of horizontal equity:population by borough matched against boroughshares of various transportation costs andbenefits.We need more sophisticated measures ofhorizontal equity that go down to lower levels ofgeographic equity.And completely undiscussed has been verticalequity: how different groups of people – differentraces, income classes, genders, ages – areimpacted by the transportation system.That is the subject for the next Marchi lecture.