To prepare for New York city's growth over the next few decades we must think outside the box governmentally and act accordingly.
We should propose to the state government in Albany that New York City take back responsibility for managing our subway and bus service. The MTA was created in the1960s not only because Mayor John Lindsay bungled the transit strike as he entered office, but because New York City could not financially sustain the subway and bus service that the entire metropolitan region depended upon. That is no longer the case.
Today's problem is Albany's inability to prioritize financial and management support for our mass transit, either in terms of easing the fare burden on straphangers or enacting a dependable capital plan. Some would reflexively blame Governor Andrew Cuomo for Albany's inaction. That would be unfair. Governor Cuomo came into office staring at a $10 billion deficit, while complying with the Court of Appeals' ruling on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity regarding education and the Medicaid cost containment challenges screamed for attention.
Therefore, it would be unfair to blame Governor Cuomo for being unable to solve our mass transit funding crisis, given the chronic deficits the state faces. A deeper look reveals that the fault lies with Governor Pataki, for under his watch when the economy was robust, the state bled the MTA, pretending to appease straphangers. Yet all that bleeding did was deprive straphangers of dollar support for fares and a dependable capital plan they needed for the long haul.
That is precisely the problem. Given the crush of events, mass transit will tend to be a second tier problem for any governor, even a highly motivated and savvy governor like Andrew Cuomo. But a mayor of New York by definition would prioritize management of mass transit, and our long-term financial prospects are better than the state's. Voters will and should hold a mayor's feet to the fire on mass transit. Therefore, let's reallocate with Albany mass transit's administrative and funding burdens.
Here is what a mayor empowered to manage our subways and buses should focus on. First, bring down costs for working poor straphangers by means-testing Metrocards. Second, recognize that enhanced bus service is the best way to serve the elderly and students, particularly in the outer boroughs. Third, ensure we have enough medallioned cabs in Manhattan, as well as the outer boroughs, during the 4-7 o'clock rush hours, while capturing revenues for mass transit from the sale of additional medallions. Fourth, we need to develop a master plan to provide reliable mass transit for Staten Island. Staten Islanders have all too often been ignored facing $12 tolls and virtually no mass transit.
A mayor responsible for mass transit should also bring redress to certain outer borough neighborhoods where commutes are as long as those coming from Western New Jersey, Stamford and the outskirts of Philadelphia. Communities like Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, Rochdale and Bellrose in Queens, as well as Co-op City in the Bronx, need reliable and efficient bus service, especially when it comes to bringing commuters to subway hubs. Instead, bus services from these far-flung neighborhoods have been first on the service chopping block. The MTA lost $260 million over three years to state government "raids", resulting in bus riders wrongly losing 32 local and express routes and 570 bus stops!
New York City's transit system needs accountability. Our commerce, in fact our entire citizenry, benefits from mass transit. Let's empower a mayor to be the one responsible for transforming mass transit into an efficient and fair system. The mayor now finally has control of the education system, which affects many; but the transit system affects all New Yorkers and the mayor should be the conductor here as well. When it comes to mass transit, let the buck stop at City Hall, along with the number 2, 3, 5 and 6 trains.
Tom Allon, a Democrat and Liberal-backed New York City mayoral candidate in 2013, rides the C subway train to work each day.
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