September 12, 2016

These 6 Staten Island transit projects could transform the borough

Photo Credit: Roman Babakin

When we asked Staten Island politicians last year what could be improved about their borough, every single one of them mentioned transportation. There have been a lot of proposed fixes – enough that the topic was skewered in a 2005 mockumentary, the “The Staten Island Catapult,” about a contraption that would launch commuters to Manhattan. Here are some of the projects that are actually being considered, and how likely they are to happen.

West Shore Light Rail

West shore light rail concept

Photo Credit: Sarah Hipwell

While the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency favors the borough’s eastern side, the proposed West Shore Light Rail would follow the West Shore Expressway along the other side of the island, crossing the Kill Van Kull into Bayonne, New Jersey, to connect with the Hudson Bergen Light Rail’s southern terminus. After years of advocacy by the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) and thanks to a push by state Sen. Andrew Lanza, the MTA has committed to an estimated $5 million study of the project. Rail fans should temper excitement though – studies in 2004 and 2009 never led to action, and the latest report isn’t due until June 2017.

Verdict: MAYBE

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge HOV Lane

Verrazano Bridge HOV lane concept art

Photo Credit: MTA

Even with no traffic, the drive from Staten Island to Manhattan takes a while. But come summer of 2017, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will be home to the first high-occupancy vehicle lane on any MTA bridge or tunnel. Heading into Brooklyn in the morning and back to Staten Island in the evening, the lane will allow busses and carpoolers to stay in their own dedicated, less-crowded lane all the way from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel down the Staten Island Expressway.


Staten Island Ferry to Midtown

Staten Island Ferry

Photo Credit: rSnapshot Photos

“We're always looking for ways to improve the hellish daily commute endured by Staten Islanders,” said Borough President James Oddo, who has asked the Department of Transportation to consider running ferries to points beyond the Lower Manhattan ferry terminal, like Pier 11 at the end of Wall Street and a pier at East 35th Street in Midtown. The DOT said it will look into it, but issues remain, like too-small piers and a shortage of ground transportation from the Midtown pier.

Verdict: MAYBE

Harbor Ring

Photo Credit: Vladimir Korostyshevskiy

Why should you need an engine to leave Staten Island? Advocates for the Harbor Ring want a path built across the Verrazano for walkers, runners and bikers. It’s the biggest missing link in a bike path all around New York harbor, and the MTA included renderings in its master plan for the 50-year-old bridge’s rehabilitation. The Harbor Ring has an uphill climb though – there are cost and feasibility issues and there’s no timetable for construction.


Staten Island Tunnel

Overview shot of Verrazano Bridge and NYC Harbor

Photo Credit: Iofoto

A plan since the 1890s, ground was broken on a tunnel to connect the R train in Bay Ridge with Staten Island way back in 1923. Construction was halted soon after, and since then a bevy of proposals have been made for extending the subways to Staten Island – most argue for a link from Brooklyn, but some call for a tunnel all the way from Lower Manhattan. Seventy percent of Staten Islanders supported a tunnel in a 2011 Staten Island Advance survey, but with a multibillion-dollar price tag for a long ride to Manhattan, the MTA seems to feel differently.


Aerial Tramway

Tramway over water

Photo Credit: CSP

“The reality for us out here is no one’s gonna build a subway here. More busses are worthless because you need more roads, and no one's gonna build more roads for us, so really you only have two long term transportation options: light rail and a gondola system,” he said. The SIEDC has already thrown its support behind the West Shore Light Rail; now it's backing the other option too.

“All the great cities, cities where the leaders have real vision,” Claro said, “are all looking to the sky, and they're implementing gondola projects all over the world.” But a 2015 Advance headline said it all: “Staten Island tramway proposal won't fly, city says.”