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Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is up for reelection this fall, has a plan to make crosstown buses free to the public and keep them running more frequently. You could save time and money traveling on a bus route from Columbia to 5th Ave. if the proposal is approved.

Students may soon have a new incentive to explore the world beyond Morningside Heights. If New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wins reelection and is able to implement the transit overhaul plan he proposed, the notoriously slow crosstown buses will be faster—and free. Bloomberg raised the issue of crosstown buses, oft-scorned by residents and commuters for their sluggishness, as part of a 33-point proposal he says will revamp and revitalize mass transit in the city. Free buses, he says, would motivate people to use the bus system and also speed up the lengthy trip by eliminating the time spent paying upon boarding. This so-called "dwell time"—the time the bus sits at each stop—can account for up to 30 percent of the length of a bus trip, according to studies by Metropolitan Transportation Authority engineers. Critics of Bloomberg's plan call the idea symbolic and consider it a means of diverting attention from the budget cuts the mayor made to transit in his last term. Bloomberg announced the proposed measures not long after the MTA, facing a huge deficit, raised the base bus and subway fare to $2.25 from $2. "We are primarily supportive of his overall vision for transit," said Ellyn Shannon, transport planner for the Permanent Citizen's Advisory Committee to the MTA and a member of the New York City Transit Council. "But we are looking for him to say that the city will contribute in a more substantive way. Putting money with that vision would be much more substantive." Shannon also raised concerns about the necessity of a pilot program for Bloomberg's proposals. Some students are similarly skeptical of the proposal, mainly because—since it is already free to transfer from subway to bus or vice versa—its financial impact may be limited. Bloomberg acknowledges that most crosstown bus riders already take advantage of that free transfer. "Transfer is free anyways," Daniel Gonzalez, CC '13, said. Still, Remy Zaken, CC '12, said, "I don't take crosstown buses often, but I would be more inclined to take them if they were free or faster. It takes forever to get to the East Side." And while students may not ride buses regularly, many commuters would benefit from speedier service. "I have a monthly [unlimited] pass because I travel all the time for work, but this plan might make it faster or less time-consuming to commute," said Leslie Dennis, who lives downtown and works in Morningside Heights. As Zaken noted, the subways are faster than buses, but a trip from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side, or vice versa, necessitates a crosstown bus. Ultimately, regardless of how significantly free crosstown buses and the other points of Bloomberg's transit proposal would change riders' experiences, Bloomberg could face stiff opposition, as his office controls only four of the 14 votes on the MTA board.

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