North Shore BRT advocates deliver more than 2,000 petitions to Albany

BRT

North Shore BRT advocates meet with Staten Island officials in Albany on Tuesday. From left to right: Annamarie Gentile, chairwoman of the SI Chamber of Commerce; Loretta Cauldwell, executive director of the Staten Island Business Outreach Center; Leticia Remauro, chairwoman of Community Board 1; Assemblyman Joe Borelli; Linda Baran, president of the SI Chamber of Commerce; Daniel Cassella, President of ATU Local 726; Assemblyman Michael Cusick; Assemblyman Matthew Titone; Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Ya-Ting Liu, NYC program director at the League. (Image courtesy of the League)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Advocates took to Albany on Tuesday for Transit Awareness Day to make noise for funding of the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line.

Members of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF), Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, Staten Island Community Board 1, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 726, and the Staten Island Business Outreach Center delivered more than 2,000 petitions in support of the BRT line.

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The League canvased North Shore transit sites in December to hand out literature and collect signatures for a petition asking Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to find funding for the construction of the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit line. (Image courtesy of the League of Conservation Voters)

The groups met with the entire Staten Island delegation in Albany to help convey the urgency and importance of the advocates' mission: getting the North Shore BRT project into the MTA Capital Plan.

The BRT line would connect Arlington to St. George along a five-mile, fully dedicated bus path. According to a 2012 Metropolitan Transportation (MTA) Study, the project would cost an estimated $371 million to build.

Linda Baran, president of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, has been fighting for more mass transit along the North Shore for years. With huge St. George developments set to break ground in March, Ms. Baran went to Albany to fight for BRT service in the area.

"Staten Island suffers from a dearth of transportation options and yet has the longest commute times and pays some of the highest commuter tolls compared to other areas across the nation," said Ms. Baran in a statement. "Funding the North Shore BRT is vitally important considering the significant amount of private and public development taking place along the waterfront. We believe that the MTA and the legislature need to take a proactive and not reactive approach in solving our region's transportation deficiencies."

The MTA pitched the first draft of its five-year capital budget in October, proposing a $32 billion capital plan with $15 billion funding shortage. Under the original plan, the authority would replace aging Staten Island Railway cars and designate funding for Verrazano Bridge improvements. There was no mention of Island mass-transit ideas like the West Shore Light Rail or BRT.

As the MTA works out another draft of its budget, the authority has called for more financial support from Albany. Meanwhile, advocates push for the inclusion of more capital projects, like the BRT.

The League hopes that the trip to Albany will spur support strategies as the legislature deliberates on funding the MTA's capital plan.

"To leave North Shore BRT out of the next capital plan -- when so many Staten Island residents need access to better, faster, and more efficient transit network -- is simply unacceptable," said Ya-Ting Liu, the New York City program director at the League.

The 2,000 petitions were collected during a canvassing collaboration from the League and the Chamber of Commerce this past December. The two offices have also launched a Change.org petition, which has 763 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

Support also comes by way of officials like Councilwoman Debi Rose and Community Board 1. Leticia Remauro, chairwoman of Community Board 1, said the BRT is a "necessary component" of North Shore development.

"Access to public transportation is an important and necessary component as we prepare for the population growth on the north shore," she said. "With the proper planning, the North Shore can become home to our 20-something and senior populations which have been leaving Staten Island because of the lack of residential rental and public transportation options."