Public Transit for All New Yorkers

District 39 represents some of the best and worst of New York City transportation infrastructure. On the one hand we have multiple subway lines, and Atlantic Terminal is just across Flatbush from the district’s northern border. On the other hand, the district is scarred by the legacy of Robert Moses, with the Prospect Expressway, Gowanus Expressway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway subdividing the district and emitting greenhouse gases that harm our air and the climate and the residents that live near them.

We need to rethink how New York approaches transportation by emphasizing public transit, pedestrian safety, cycling, and deemphasizing car usage and ownership. One bright spot during the pandemic has been the city’s open-streets program and allowing restaurants to have outdoor street dining where before there was only street parking. This has not only helped small businesses, but it’s also made our communities more livable and enjoyable.

Brandon believes freedom of movement is a human right, and we must prioritize movement in sustainable, efficient ways with efforts that center working families and marginalized communities. We need to decrease our reliance on the automobile to confront the climate crisis and make our streets safer for people, while investing in public transportation so that it not only runs efficiently, but that it also is equitable to all New Yorkers in transit deserts and those unable to afford it.

Bring the subway under city control: The MTA is currently controlled by the state, and is at the whim of the governor. Cuomo has used this power to defund the subway and direct funds toward suburban constituents as well as other pet projects. New York City residents deserve to democratically control their largest piece of transportation infrastructure.

Double down on buses: Buses are the unsung hero of New York Public transit. Working class New Yorker’s and communities of color disproportionately rely on them, and they reach parts of the city the subway does not. Unfortunately, the city has neglected our bus system and its riders. On average, bus lines in the district have a D ranking with slow speeds and poor reliability.

  • Redesign the bus network: Most of our bus routes are nearly a century old and are relics of the streetcar era. Brandon supports recommendations in the Bus Turnaround report to redesign the network so that it meets the needs of New Yorkers today. This includes adding new routes, as well as adjusting existing routes to be more direct.

  • Implement all-door boarding: One reason bus trips take so long is that people have to wait at the front of the bus to pay their fares. Allowing passengers to also board at the back door (as is the policy on the city’s select bus service) will speed up bus trips and limit dwell time.

  • Redesign streets to prioritize buses: Another reason buses move so slowly is because our streets are prioritized around automobiles. The city needs to add more bus-only lanes, give buses traffic signal priority to reduce the amount of time buses spend stopped at red lights, and implement queue-jump lanes where necessary so that buses get a short, exclusive lane at intersections to cut ahead of traffic.

  • Bring back the B71: Prior to 2010, the district had a crosstown bus that ran along Union Street, connecting Columbia Street Waterfront District, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, and Crown Heights. As part of MTA budget cuts, this route was removed and Brooklyn lost a critical East-West transportation link. New York should revive this route and follow proposals to extend it through Red Hook and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel into Manhattan.

  • Prioritize interborough movement: Most bus routes remain within Brooklyn. We need to improve interborough transit to Queens and the other boroughs.

Justice in Transportation: Brandon brings his same principles of criminal justice and budget reform to transportation. Our transportations system needs to meet the needs of all New Yorkers, not just the affluent.

  • Transit accessibility: Disability rights and accessibility have always been an afterthought in this city. Brandon will fight for citywide change to ensure we are expanding access to people with disabilities, older people, children, and other groups that are too often overlooked in the design process.

    • Support Zoning for Transit Accessibility and work with the MTA to prioritize the installation of elevators and other accessibility infrastructure in ALL subway stations.

    • Ensure that all forms of public transit are accessible, and, if that’s not possible, ensure that dignified, timely, equivalent options are readily available to all passengers.

    • Redesign city streets to include functional curb cuts at intersections and crossings, bus stops with shelter wherever practical, and proper lighting at every intersection to prioritize the safety for pedestrians and mobility-impaired people. Prioritize making these improvements in working-class neighborhoods.

    • Expand and reprioritize snow removal from sidewalks, crosswalks, and bus stops to occur simultaneously with street removal.

    • Expand the city’s accessible taxi fleet and incorporate more taxis into the Access-A-Ride (AAR) Paratransit Program.

    • Add benches and bus shelters at all MTA bus stops.

    • Make crosswalks safer for Blind, low-sight, Deaf, and hard-of-hearing New Yorkers.

  • Decriminalize riding: Cops don’t belong in our subways, and, rather than keep New Yorkers safe, they are more likely to harass homeless people or enforce fares. Instead, they should be replaced by healthcare and social service specialists to assist the homeless situation on our subways.

  • Disengage police from traffic: Traffic safety is incredibly important and we need to prioritize design solutions that make dangerous driving difficult or impossible in the first place. We should be very cautious about employing police to enforce traffic laws. Not only does the NYPD show a pervasive bias in favor of drivers, but the racist impact of policing on Black and brown drivers is well established. Brandon supports requiring people to take safety courses for poor driving.

  • End placard corruption: The city should end the parking placard program and replace it with commuter benefits for municipal employees. There are tens of thousands of legal placards, and many more illegal ones, that the city doles out, allowing their owners to park wherever they want without consequence. The unfair benefits of these placards is significant enough to fuel rampant placard fraud — one survey found that 57% of observed placards were fake or being used for unintended purposes.

  • Progressive Fares: In 2020 New York launched Fair Fares, which provides discounted MetroCards to people making below the federal poverty line. This is a good first step, but it is too low a number. For example, an individual would have to make below $12,880 a year to qualify, making many New Yorkers ineligible. The program should be expanded and with the eventual goal to eliminate fares entirely.

  • Eliminate transit deserts: Many working class communities of color don’t have access to rapid transit because of lack of investment. We need to counter this by expanding bus rapid transit, allowing city residents to ride LIRR trains at subway fare prices, and examine subway expansion where appropriate.

Fully support Vision Zero: When Mayor de Blasio launched the city’s Vision Zero initiative in 2014, the goal was to end traffic deaths in New York City by 2024, yet traffic fatalities are surging and 2021 is projected to be the worst year since de Blasio took office. As city council member, Brandon will support all initiatives that make our streets safer for everyone.

  • More, better bike lanes: New York has experienced a bike boom in recent years, yet our infrastructure has failed to catch up. Too many of our bike lanes are just paint on an empty road with little to no protection for cyclists. We need safe, protected bike lanes – even if that means having to repurpose parking spaces in some places.

  • Redesign our streets: One of the reasons for pedestrian fatalities is that our streets are often more akin to highways with wide lanes and high speeds. We need to invest in traffic calming measures in our street designs to protect pedestrians.

  • Invest in pedestrians: Countdown clocks, sidewalk extensions and landscaped pedestrian-refuge islands make walking safer and more pleasant. The city must expand these investments for pedestrians.

Support congestion pricing: Congestion pricing is moving along the federal environmental review process. We need to push to implement congestion pricing as soon as we can in a non-regressive way to decrease the number of cars in our city and redirect the funds to clean transportation infrastructure.

Electrify the municipal fleet: Brandon supports all municipal vehicles becoming 100% electric by 2030 and requiring all new vehicles procured after 2025 to be electric.

Bury the BQE: The BQE runs through the district in a trench separating Cobble Hill and Carrol Gardens from the Columbia Street Waterfront District. Other cities have capped their trenched freeways and put parks on top and there is currently a plan to do the same to the BQE in these neighborhoods. Doing so would provide acres of parkland to neighborhoods lacking greenspace and improve the health and quality of life of those who live nearby. This would be an expensive project, but new Transportation Secretary Pete Buttegieg has supported demolishing and capping freeways that divide neighborhoods and the city should apply aggressively for these funds.

Expand open streets: The Open Streets program has been one of the few silver linings of the past tragic, challenging year. It was welcomed by New Yorkers, helpful to local businesses, and demonstrated that our streets are useful for so many more reasons beyond the storage and operation of private vehicles.