I support the goal of serving underserved communities, and I have a few others, as described in this post:
- Reducing pollution
- Increasing transportation and land-use efficiency
- Improving social interaction
- Reducing carnage
When it comes to getting people out of their cars, keep in mind that the rising cost of gasoline will accomplish much of this by itself. People who used to drive even though they're well-served by transit are now leaving the car at home, or even selling it, and taking that transit. If they couldn't get to their jobs and shopping easily by transit, they find other places to work and shop. Many people whose homes are not well-served by transit are moving to places that are.
Sprawly places like eastern Queens and southeastern Brooklyn pose a problem for sustainability: the way they're set up now, it's very difficult for someone to live out there and get to work and shopping without a car. The people who live there now could all move to western Queens and South Brooklyn, but that wouldn't be a very efficient use of space, would it? We need to find a way to reshape the sprawl into transit-oriented development: clusters of dense housing, employment and shopping near transit, and less-dense housing and parkland in between. This is hard to do without transit, so the question becomes how best to extend transit to these sprawly areas.
This is where I see the biggest value for BRT - and hopefully light rail, and eventually maybe more subways. This is also good because this is where there are the largest number of wide boulevards and highways, that can more easily be converted to BRT. Many of these places were originally designed around streetcars to begin with, but if not, they can be redeveloped around this model.
What kind of trips should we be designing BRT for? Just as it doesn't make sense to drive for your daily shopping, it doesn't make much sense to rely on transit for that daily shopping. We should be aiming, through zoning and subsidies if necessary, to have everyone live within convenient walking distance of a decent supermarket (and not tear down historic structures to build parking for supermarkets). Plain old buses (with signal prioritization and other improvements wherever possible) can accommodate other kinds of shopping and socializing.
Rapid transit should be for special occasion shopping, entertainment and socializing, and for commuting. That means - you guessed it - connections to Manhattan. But, as Joan Byron pointed out, there are also job centers in the other boroughs, and making connections between the boroughs should be a secondary goal. I'll explore some of these possibilities in future posts.
We should also think about long-distance connections: how easy is it for someone from Baychester to get to Penn Station for an Amtrak train? For someone from College Point to get to the Port Authority for a Peter Pan bus? For a resident of Kingsbridge to get to any of the airports?