July 10, 2017
Chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Transit Authority
New York, NY 10004
Dear Chairman Lhota:
Congratulations on your reappointment to this important position of leadership at the MTA. We understand the enormous challenges you face at this time. From chronic delays to the recent A train derailment, breakdowns in the New York City subway system have affected thousands of New Yorkers in recent months. But while media headlines focus on the “summer of hell,” we also remind you not to lose sight of Staten Island’s urgent transportation needs.
We have some of the longest commutes in the nation, and wide swaths of transportation deserts on Staten Island separate residents from the economic opportunities our region has to offer. As you undertake a necessary exhaustive audit of the city’s transit system, we call on you to also focus on the transportation deserts in Staten Island.
As lifelong Staten Islanders with decades of civic involvement between us, we have worked together on several transit issues, including restoring bus lines, increasing ferry service, reopening the South Ferry station after Sandy, keeping bridge tolls constant for residents, and more.
Our top priority today is accelerating construction of a long-overdue rapid transit line along the North Shore. This line on an existing right of way between St. George and Mariners Harbor would connect thousands of Staten Islanders to the region’s transportation network and economic opportunities. The MTA is currently spending $5 million on study and design for this project. Though this is a significant investment, we now need more resources to make this project a reality.
We also ask that you move forward with a rapid transit line along the West Shore, which would connect our existing East Shore line with the proposed North Shore line and continue over the Bayonne Bridge to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. This connection would provide greater access to Hudson County and Manhattan, while taking cars off our roads and bridges. Along with the North Shore rapid transit, this will strengthen the regional reach that is crucial to growth and development.
Finally, as the MTA continues its comprehensive bus study, we would like to see weekend bus service restored to underserved communities. Many Staten Islanders rely on public transportation to take them to jobs, shopping, medical appointments and more seven days a week—and the cuts made in recent years are unacceptable.
Changes in leadership often mean changes in priorities. For too many years, such changes have kept Staten Island’s transportation needs on the back burner. Fortunately, as a former chair of the MTA, you are familiar with our lack of transportation infrastructure and the need to look at public transit from a wider, regional perspective. For our current population, rapid transit on Staten Island is a necessity, not an amenity.
We ask that you recognize this policy objective—and the transformation of our waterfront to a world-class destination—and make needed investments in Staten Island’s transportation infrastructure.
Councilwoman Debi Rose Allen Cappelli
49th District Former MTA Board Member