The forgotten borough has been forgotten on the new bus map, according to a proposal released by the city this week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday a planned addition of 20 Select Bus Service routes to “all five boroughs” when the city’s report was released. But this report leaves out the fifth borough, with no new mass transit options for Staten Island.
The Department of Transportation’s attempt to remedy the situation is their “proposed” Bus Rapid Transit line for the North Shore. However, this proposal has not been approved and there are no concrete plans to move forward with the idea.
The expansion, referred to as “Bus Forward”, is at least five years old and was conceived before the de Blasio administration. The Mayor did not clarify the difference between BRT and SBS service. This project has been described as significantly more costly than Select Bus Service and would involve a dedicated path for bus transit along the converted former North Shore rail line.
SBS has expanded quite a bit under the De Blasio administration, increasing from just six to 14 routes since 2014. Staten Island’s sole SBS route, the S79, was launched in 2012. The s79 offers service between the Staten Island Mall and Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Mayor de Blasio recently defended his record in Staten Island amidst accusations from dissatisfied residents. At the Advance editorial board meeting on October 18, de Blasio touted the city’s improved road paving, a 9 percent drop in felony crime, and large pre-k expansion as marks of progress for Staten Island during his tenure.
According to MTA research, ridership went up by 2.4% in 2014 for the S79, the borough’s most frequented bus route. Staten Island residents have just one train line running along the East Shore and are unlikely to receive another anytime soon.
Much of the island is zoned for suburban sprawl, comprised of mainly single family homes and few of the city’s private sector jobs. Staten Island’s economy is reliant on Manhattan but getting there proves a huge challenge. Residents currently face some of the longest commute times in the country.
Logistics are challenging for bus commutes to Manhattan. Other than a few scattered transit centers on the South Shore, commuters do not have access to parking lots at bus stations. Often one or more transfers to different bus lines are required.
One silver lining, is the increased frequency of ferry service in St. George. The de Blasio administration launched 24 hour service every 30 minutes from the Staten Island Ferry terminal to Whitehall Terminal in downtown Manhattan. The free ferry service previously ran only once per hour outside of peak hours.
by Hannah Jay