‘The heart of the problem is Bronxites can move north and south and straight to Manhattan, but they cannot move across The Bronx and throughout the outer boroughs with ease.’

Masked passengers seated on a MTA Bus heading east on Fordham Road in the Bronx this past fall. (Adi Talwar)

In New York City the politics of transportation access are painfully clear. The outer boroughs are not being prioritized for effective and accessible transportation options while Manhattan has numerous train lines that can take you almost anywhere you need to go. New York City’s Manhattan-centric transit system is centuries old, and for the sake of the majority of our population and our local economies, we cannot continue to build transit systems in this way.

This year two new transit lines have been proposed to connect and create more access between the outer boroughs, the Penn Access and the Interborough Express. The governor’s leadership in prioritizing the modernization of our transit system is revolutionary. The historic initiative of both projects marks a new beginning for cross-borough transportation. Penn Access creates a new opportunity for almost 250,000 residents to cut their commute in half, and the Interborough Express will be able to service more than 900,000 riders between Brooklyn and Queens.

These new lines were conceived to deliver transit options to the outer-boroughs, yet The Bronx is excluded from The Interborough Express. While both lines are creating entirely new trains that all boroughs will benefit greatly from, I want to point out that both of those projects (Interborough Express and Penn Access) haven’t actually answered the main issue Bronxites have—which is commuting east to west efficiently.

Gaining more transit access is not the only issue we need resolved. The neighborhoods in my district and throughout the borough need urgent solutions to the decades of non-existent transit infrastructure in The Bronx. While both initiatives do bring public transportation to areas long underserved, I need to re-emphasize the true needs of our community. As someone born and raised in my own district, I feel these struggles firsthand.

The heart of the problem is Bronxites can move north and south and straight to Manhattan, but they cannot move across The Bronx and throughout the outer boroughs with ease. For example, to get from Highbridge to Soundview via public transit you have to take at least two different trains and a bus for almost an hour—on a good day—just to get to a neighborhood that is only three miles away. In comparison, to travel three miles from City Hall to the Empire State Building, it only takes around 18 minutes.

Effective transportation options can change lives by giving back more time to working families to be home instead of on several different crowded trains/buses/cars. Adequate transit options reduce commuting times and improve everyone’s day to day lives. If we are going to build these historic new trains, then let’s build new trains that do new things to prioritize Bronxites’ quality of life.

Though the vital work this administration has started through the Penn Station Access Project is extraordinary, The Bronx’s transit access problems do not end with a faster travel time to Penn Station. Expanding the Interborough Express into the Bronx would be transformative for our residents, many of whom live in some of the most transit-starved neighborhoods in the city. Below are simple recommendations to Gov. Hochul and the MTA, on how the existing Interborough Express plan could deliver exactly what the outer-borough communities have been needing for decades.

There are several suggested proposals to increase transit access in The Bronx that I believe should be priorities. The Regional Plan Association’s Triboro Line—the foundation of the Interborough Express—adds an additional eight stops, with two in Queens and six in The Bronx. While the Triboro Line has only been two-thirds approved, I would urge Gov. Hochul and the MTA to strongly consider adding an additional one to two stops.

The first priority of stops to add to the Interborough Express from the Triboro Line is one at 149th Street and 3rd Avenue. By having just this one stop in The Bronx that connects to Brooklyn and Queens, we could be growing and investing in our outer-borough economies. Currently, the walk from 149th Street to Yankee Stadium takes about 30 minutes or requires multiple transfers that add additional costs. If we extended the Interborough Express just one more stop, past 149th and 3rd Avenue straight to Yankee Stadium, we could alleviate both time and cost to riders, and bring them closer to everyone’s favorite baseball team.

As the Interborough Express is currently outlined there is no inclusion of The Bronx, Randall’s Island, or Northern Queens stops that are pointed out in the Triboro Line. Keeping budget and construction in mind, if we could only choose one stop out of the extensive line the Triboro offers I would go straight to 149th Street from Jackson Heights, which is the last stop on the proposed Interborough Express.

As we prepare for the building of these new trains we must look at ways to be more inclusive of our neighbors, not only in the sense of transit accessibility, but also accessibility for those with disabilities. It is more important than ever to make sure we are building infrastructure that everyone can use, like ensuring 100 percent ADA and audio-visual compliance. I am so excited for what The Bronx can gain from these two new transit plans in the upcoming years. I would like to thank the governor for her leadership in prioritizing the historic and necessary transformation of our city’s transit system.

Let’s work together to do more for The Bronx. 

Council Member Amanda Farías represents the city’s District 18, which includes Soundview, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Clason Point and Harding Park. 

9 thoughts on “Opinion: Transit Equity for New York City Starts in The Bronx

  1. What if the proposed 2nd Ave subway, which in its first round, was a multi-multi-multi-multi billion dollar project, delayed by decades, and dislocated residents and businesses, used light rail instead of digging tunnels?. Light rail is faster, cheaper, more easily made accessible. The light rail could go from 125th St into Bronx transit deserts, which was one of the original routes. Hochul proposes rail for the Interboro Express. Our neighbor New Jersey uses light rail to link towns. Europe has light rail. London used light rail for the Olympics to link the low income East End to the games and created new routes.

    • The Bronx has many more options than Staten Island. We on SI have 1 connection to Manhattan and NO untolled road off the island. Think about that and then talk about equity.

      • Exactly!! And while I understand this article is about the Bronx.. I find it absolutely insulting and extremely dismissive to read how something will greatly benefit “ALL BOROUGHS” when clearly Staten Island could not possibly benefit from it essentially meaning that “ALL” once again seems to EXCLUDE Staten Island …and once again we are THE FORGOTTEN.

  2. Getting across (East/West) the Bronx is a problem that “select” buses won’t solve. Try elevated monorails running along Gun Hill Road, Fordham Rd./Pelham Pkwy., Cross Bronx Expy., 161st/163rd St. Its unacceptable that there is no direct rail service linking the Bronx & Queens.

  3. Amanda Farias states that ” While both lines are creating entirely new trains that all boroughs will benefit greatly from,” – which basically means that she, like so many NYC legislators has completely forgotten that Staten Island is also a borough, because Staten Island most definitely will not benefit from either of these projects. Any talk of transit equity that doesn’t even mention Staten Island, rings a little hollow since Staten Island is the ONLY borough without a train link to Manhattan, let alone any of the other boroughs. Also, having to pay an exorbitant bridge toll anytime one wants to drive off or onto the Island is also NOT equity.

    • I absolutely agree with almost everything you say here… with the exception of the “exorbitant bridge toll”. As a Staten Island resident we do receive a discount (of course only if you have ezpass!) Each way is only $2.75 which is the price of the subway …which I can only assume is also the reason it is priced as such? But many Islanders do not have a car making that mode of access to the city moot.

  4. In the forward thinking New York City of the Early 20th Century, rail transit was run to the Bronx in advance of population, to provide alternatives to Manhattan’s overcrowded slums.

    For over the half a century that followed the Bronx’s easy access between decent housing and jobs, including many in the borough, made it a haven for the middle class. The city’s 1968 master plan and bond issue sought to continue that with a Second Avenue subway, running express along the Westchester & Boston Right of Way up to E 180 St, and converting the lines north to IND service with 30 percent more capacity.

    The Dyer Avenue line uses the northern section of the W & B line, but the route continued unused south to the Harlem River. Housing truncated the easement as in 2013, while it was decided to spend $8 billion to extend the Second Avenue Subway only from 96 Street to Metro North at 125th Street. For that cost, and tunnels completed in the 1970s already exist for 99 to 106 Streets and 110 to 120. Think of what that $8 billion could for the Bronx housing and tax base rather than suburban commuters.

  5. It would be very helpful for you to publish maps of the discussed lines with this story (and any future stories), so that readers like me can see exactly what is being talked about. Otherwise, we don’t have the full story. What exactly IS the Penn Line, Triboro Line, and Interborough Line? Where do they start, travel through, and end?

  6. New York could provide better transit to the bronx at a low cost by using the existing commuter rail lines more effectively. The two lines that run through the borough– the Harlem Line and the Northeast Corridor (currently only used by Amtrak with no local stops) run through areas that are either far from the subway (Northeast Corridor) or have long, slow subway commutes (Harlem Line). With the adoption of European or Japanese railroading practices, these trains could be like subway lines, fast, frequent, and cheap. New trains would be bought with fewer seats and more doors than current Metro North rolling stock allowing passengers to enter more quickly, and the switches and signaling systems at Grand Central and Penn Station would be upgraded to allow trains to enter the stations at high speeds. This would allow these trains to travel at speeds comparable to todays express trains while making more local stops. The trains would not have conductors, and would instead use the “proof of payment” system used in light rail– people either buy monthly passes, or buy tickets and them stamp them before boarding the train, and riders are subject to occasional random inspections instead of a daily ticket check. Track maintenance would be modernized, bringing in European managers and using more automation. The previous two points would save large amounts of money, allowing in-city fares to be lowered to $2.75, the same as a subway ticket. Trains would not run on complicated, infrequent schedules as they do today, but would stop at every station every 5 minutes.

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