As Mayor de Blasio today prepares to mark Earth Day by announcing new plans to make the city a little bit more environmentally friendly, let's pause to celebrate something that's kept the city much greener and thriving for 110 years: our subways.

Transit officials announced this week that on the average weekday last year, 5.6 million people went through the turnstiles. That staggering figure is equal to the entire population of Chicago and Los Angeles combined. Getting on the subway. Everyday. That's 5.6 million people not jumping into a gas-guzzling car.

While I'm entirely supportive of making the streets safer for cyclists, it's important to realize what a tiny amount of people actually commute via bike: roughly 21,000 a day. That's about half as many people who start their trips at the Jay Street subway station in Brooklyn.

The importance of the city's subway system cannot be understated when looking at New York's safety, environment, and economy – and yet neither the state nor the city has shown a real financial commitment to advancing it. There's a three-rail reason why the population of the city's outer boroughs has boomed – while Manhattan's has actually substantially decreased – in the 110 years since the subway system was launched.

Capital New York's Dana Rubinstein reports that the Mayor today will ask the MTA to consider expanding the subway south along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. Perhaps he should consider expanding the city's funding to the subways.

As Rubinstein points out, de Blasio is proposing cutting the city's $100 million contribution to the MTA's construction program to $40 million – while the MTA is asking for $125 million from the city. The mayor could lead by example and show a real financial commitment to one of the most successful initiatives in the city's history. It would be as green as it gets.


Bob Hardt