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Transit Deserts and Transit Equity in New York City

A Policy and Action Website

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About My Project

This website was made with the intent to spur transit advocacy in New York City, the city with the biggest and most complex transportation system in the United States. Throughout my time living and studying in New York as part of the CityGAP program, I’ve seen the great pros and cons of the transit system. Many people in the city do not have access to the subway system or cannot access it without hassle; this website will examine the reasons behind that and solutions that may be viable to address issues of access and equity now.

This website is a product of Living City Project’s CityGAP Program, which is a program offering high school graduates a chance to take a semester to learn about the city of New York and study urban resilience as the city deals with the threats and consequences that climate change poses.

A passion for urban planning combined with an interest for community demographics in cities made this program a great opportunity to learn about the transportation system in New York City. I took this opportunity to explore underserved neighborhoods and speak with transit experts as well as local community members throughout the city in order to gain a deeper understanding of the stengths and challenges that each community possesses.

Special thanks to my partners and everyone who helped me with this project along the way!

  • Tanya Gallo and Andy Meyers- Living City Project

  • Tiffany-Ann Taylor - Regional Plan Association

  • Mike Flynn - Sam Schwartz

  • Megan Quirk - New York City Economic Development Corporation

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Affected Communities




Around 75% of New York City’s subway stations are not accessible to the disabled community. The MTA is far behind basic standards for accessibility in America, so what’s being done to make the subway system more accessible and why has it taken so long? The MTA currently has a plan in place to make all subway stations accessible by 2034, but in the meantime elderly and disabled people don’t have access to most of the subway system.


Race & Micromobility


In New York City the subway and bus systems are both used more by people of color than by white people which highlights and trend seen around the US. In New York the subway system is pretty evenly spread out through the boroughs, with the exception of Eastern Queens, parts of southeastern Brooklyn and some parts of The Bronx. In low-income neighborhoods where there is not subway service there is expansive bus service and express bus routes that work well, but are often very congested, sometimes unreliable and get stuck in traffic. Although subway extensions and expansion would be nice, it is not a short term solution, and definitely not one that would easily be agreed on. Micromobility is the solution for some neighborhoods, but not all, yet.

Forms of micromobilty have become very common across parts of New York City, primarily in Manhattan and wealthier neighborhoods of the outer boroughs. Companies like Citi Bike and Lime have filled the streets with bikes and electric scooters creating a new form of transportation in the city. It's very convenient for “the last mile” or the remaining trip from a transit station to your destination. Bike and scooter stations are often placed near transit stops because they coexist well together, but for some reason they are not seen in many neighborhoods outside of Manhattan or past the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens. Expanding these services to make them more inclusive for all New Yorkers would be a game changer, and work to get more cars off the road, especially in neighborhoods further out where people tend to drive because they don’t have this form of transportation offered.


Household Income


Like the rest of the US, New York City has a problem with income equality. This may not be super obvious by looking at a map but public transit has a massive impact on household income and gentrification.


Average Daily Commutes & Travel Times


Everyone works, and most people have to travel to get to work. Most New Yorkers take public transit to work. People who live in the outer neighborhoods of outer boroughs often have to take buses to a subway or have to transfer to multiple different subway lines.

Studies have shown that it takes people of color more time to get to work than white people in NYC. This can be attributed to gentrification caused by property value soaring around transit stops, as well as a lack of mass transit and micromobility in the outer boroughs.




In the last couple decades, economic growth in the outer boroughs has been greater than that of Manhattan, meaning more people are going to work in The Bronx, Queens & Brooklyn instead of commuting to Manhattan. Transportation infrastructure is struggling to keep up.


Economic growth in the outer boroughs has been growing at a pace faster than what the MTA can keep up with. At the moment the only subway line between the outer boroughs that does not go through Manhattan is the G train, which is often extremely packed during peek hours. It runs between Long Island City, Queens and Kensington, Brooklyn. Although a tri-borough subway line that would connect The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn has been proposed, there is currently no subway service directly between The Bronx and Queens, meaning anyone who wants to get to one of the two boroughs will have to go through Manhattan and transfer. Although the economy continues to grow in these boroughs, it keeps them from reaching their full potential. There is bus service between The Bronx and Queens in the eastern edge of the boroughs but they are inconvenient for most people.


In the coming future there may be a new subway line introduced called the Inter-Borough Express which would again connect Queen to Brooklyn, from Jackson Heights to Sunset Park, and hitting many transit deserts on the way. This would continue to spur more development and create jobs in the outer boroughs, its an example of how connecting the city with transit can grow the city in many ways, especially in the outer boroughs where there is no subway service, so transit potential is greatest.


Senior Travel


For seniors in the city, no matter where they live its often difficult to get around. Driving is not a safe option and between the subway being inaccessible and very hectic its often not a good mode of transport.


Luckily there are several organizations in the city that help seniors with traveling, but ideally, everyone including seniors would be able to take the subway or even a bus without a worry.

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Take Action

Local Government

Participate in local government. Band together with friends and neighbors to demand officials consider transit expansion.



Invest in neighborhoods and support local businesses with access to public transit, while maintaining the backbone of the community.


Team Up

Team up with local organizations and donate or participate in events to spur more action.

Community Boards

Bring up concerns at community board meetings and begin a discussion.​


Take it

Take public transportation or walk/bike whenever possible. The less cars on the road, the cleaner the air. The more people on bikes and public transit, the more the city is willing to invest in it.​

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