By Larry Pappas
Robert Moses was widely considered to be the Master Builder of modern-day New York City.
Rising to power at the cusp of a new age of personal transportation, Moses became an economic powerhouse in much of New York.
He oversaw the design, development, and construction of major infrastructure projects like the Triborough Bridge, Bronx Whitestone Bridge, Queens Midtown Tunnel, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Throg’s Neck Bridge, and more. His control over the tolling systems facilitated the funding of our new bridges and highways.
Moses’ endeavors revolutionized transportation in and around the downstate region, and there was very little at the time that didn’t involve him, but his vision was focused mainly on personal vehicles rather than mass transit. What he likely did not envision was the maddening gridlock New Yorkers would eventually face. The NY rush hour driving experience has become as famous as some of our most prominent landmarks.
Over the decades that passed since Moses’ heyday, New York has begun to rethink our approach to getting around town.
With one of the best and most expansive public transportation systems in the world, New York City’s mass transit capabilities are second to none. According to the MTA, over 2.4 million riders use the New York City subway system, and 1.2 million people ride the bus system every day. Another approximately 450,000 collectively ride the Long Island Railroad and Metro North daily. Imagine the traffic if all those riders opted to use personal cars!
Thanks to advancements in modern science and healthcare, New Yorkers are also living longer, healthier lives than ever before.
We live many more years than the population of 1904 when our first New York City subway line went into service. Then, the average male life expectancy was age 46 and for females, age 49.
As we’ve renewed our focus on the great benefits of mass transit, our 120-year-old system also has been straining to keep up with the times.
This year alone, thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the MTA is slated to receive $254 million in federal grants through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new All Stations Accessibility Program.
Continuing investments in public transit like that and others at the federal and state level need to be applauded. Bringing our region’s critical and geographically diverse (as well as demographically diverse) stations into ADA compliance is at the heart of what we do at Forte Construction.
In recent years, Forte Construction has been involved with the installation or replacement of over 100 elevators and escalators in mass transit stations, some of which are more than a century old. The work being done by Forte is key in enabling New Yorkers with disabilities and limited mobility to remain more independent throughout their lifetimes.
On another level, Forte affiliate TAP Electric has worked to alleviate communication barriers previously associated with subterranean mass transit travel.
By collaborating with industry partners to bring free WiFi capabilities to all NYC subway stations, business no longer has to stop when you step down onto the platform. Homework can still be done on mobile devices while waiting for the train, and there’s no longer an excuse to miss a call from Mom or Dad.
As the conveniences of personal
vehicles come to our subways and buses, the benefits of mass transit have never been more obvious—foremost among them, the reduced congestion and pollution that comes from the millions of personal vehicles clogging our streets, bridges, and highways.
Robert Moses was a visionary in his time, but his vision for New York City is a thing of the past. The days when single passenger vehicles were dominant in the thinking of city planners are behind us, and modern investments in mass transit will help pave the way to a cleaner and more accessible future.
Larry Pappas is President of New York based Forte Construction, one of the northeast’s most prominent general contracting firms focused on addressing ADA compliance and accessibility for mass transit settings.