Like a wily bus driver who, finding a roadblock on the highway, slogs through the sidestreets to get nearer to her destination, the Bloomberg administration continues to try to modernize the way New York runs its buses. On Monday the mayor unveiled curbside fare payment for buses on 34th Street, which should cut down on the maddening amount of time the M34 spends waiting for passengers to board and pay.
The curbside payment is less than the administration once dreamed for on 34th Street: This time last year, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was talking about building a "surface subway" of bus-only lanes along 34th, but that plan had to be scrapped in the face of opposition from businesses and residents on the route. But a DOT report released today indicates that even the modest fix will have an impact. Similar changes introduced last year on the M15 route, which runs along 1st and 2nd avenues, have reduced travel times, boarding times and crashes, according to the DOT.
In other policy news:A snapshot of the city's job market finds a fall-off of 13,000 jobs in New York from August to September, with both the private and public sectors shedding positions, but a 31,000-job gain from this September of 2010. The good news is the unemployment rate in the Bronx is no longer 13 percent. The bad news is, it's 12 percent.The Urban Justice Center issued report cards on the human rights voting records of New York City Council members (City Limits covered an earlier such report in 2009.) Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan led the pack with a 90 percent rating. Helen Foster of the Bronx and Letitia James and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn tied for second with 88 percent. Beyond the individual rankings, the report focuses on the workings of the Council, and finds them wanting because of the out-sized influence of the Council speaker and mayor on the legislature's operations. "We find stark evidence of delays in the scheduling of hearings and votes for legislation not supported by the Speaker or the Mayor," the report says, adding: "The dissonance between the Council rules and the political reality is attributed by many to the political power of City Council Speaker Quinn—as exercised through delayed hearings and votes." For instance, 100 percent of bills supported by the speaker received a hearing, as did 71 percent of those supported by the mayor and only 26 percent of those without the speaker's or mayor's support.
In 2009, City Limits reported in-depth on the Council and found much the same thing. We also found an interesting argument for the weight the speaker carries: In a zero-sum political environment under the city's strong mayor system, the speaker's clout inside the Council chamber translates into more power when the Council is dealing with the mayor. In other words, less democracy inside the Council means healthier checks and balances outside. That's the theory. Whether it really works that way might depend on whether the speaker is willing to challenge the mayor.