You might have any number of goals for New York City's transportation policy in the near future. Let's say you want to cut something in half. It could be our greenhouse gas emissions, or the amount of gasoline burned in the city, or the number of people killed in road crashes, or the childhood obesity rate. In order to do any of these things, let me repeat, it's not enough to get people to take transit. You need to get people out of their cars. If you're genuinely fighting for "balance" or "choice," you won't accomplish your goals.
Remember that if transit is more efficient at providing access for subsidies than roads are, if people patronize systems depending on the access that they provide, and if subsidies are distributed based on usage, then transit will grow by itself, and we don't have to do anything. But if we're concerned that corruption may be skewing the distribution of subsidies, or if we just want to help the process along, then we can apply pressure. Pressure in one direction moves the cycle towards car dependence (and thus towards carnage, pollution, obesity and inefficiency), and pressure in the other direction moves it towards transit use (and thus towards health, safety, efficiency and clean air).
So here's my question: at what point will we have a solid majority of the City Council in favor of prioritizing transit over cars? At what point will we have a solid majority of the city's Assembly delegation, Senate, Congress?
Right now, as we know, 55% of New Yorkers take transit to work. You would think that there would be a solid majority in the City Council supporting transit. But car ownership (and transit use) is spread unevenly across the city, leading to the possibility of a Council dominated by powerful blocs of members from Eastern Queens, for example.
Still, that doesn't explain it all. It doesn't explain why even Bill Perkins and Tom Duane were wishy-washy on bridge tolls. It doesn't explain why Dan Garodnick thinks that the primary concern of "the community" is curbside car access rather than faster buses. In these three districts, less than 30% of households have a car.
I'm beginning to think that changing the perceptions and priorities of our elected officials is more important than changing the composition of their voters.