Should Livery Cabs Replace The MTA?

Photo by Arthur Borko

Sheepshead Bites’ accidental mass transit expert Allan Rosen pointed out an interesting Brooklyn Eagle op-ed, in which former NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern argues that livery cabs and private enterprise should fill the void left by MTA bus service cuts.

Stern predicts that service cuts are here to stay as the MTA embarks on the long road to financial recovery, leaving many Brooklynites smothered by inefficient service, made worse by spiteful regulations that bar a private-sector alternative.

Blame for the agency’s malfeasance is targeted at its insulation from elected officials, and its financial situation has given way to a change in priorities, Stern argues. Where mass transit was once considered a vital public service, it’s too frequently seen now as a money-making enterprise. And like any business, deficits mean cuts and not the double down in commitment from the city and state that is required.

Stern writes:

The reason transit is a public service rather than a private operation is because service is assumed to be maintained as a basic civic amenity, whether it is profitable for the transit provider or not.
The City Council has used its budget authority to keep firehouses and senior centers open, and to reduce cuts for libraries. Yet it seems powerless to do anything about the MTA’s abandonment of subway and bus service, although these cuts will have more impact on peoples’ daily lives than the cuts that were restored. The MTA is insulated from elected officials, and the farcical ‘hearings’ held for each borough, although required by law, are no substitute for civic participation. The non-elected MTA board members, who are unknown to the public except for the lady who is dating Paul McCartney, either follow their own wishes, or the desires of the person who appointed them.

Stern called upon Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky to take the initiative and devise creative solutions that allow private enterprise to fill the hole.

But instead of being amenable to entrepreneurs finding viable solutions along closed routes, Stern said the MTA and DOT are standing in the way for fear of competition. He found one such businessman:

The Daily News reported, “The young entrepreneur running private buses along discontinued MTA bus lines blames his lower than expected ridership on interference from the city. Joel Azumah says the Department of Transportation is scaring his customers away by claiming he’s not legally authorized to pick riders off the street.”
We wondered whether and why this was so, and called DOT to find out. Here is the agency’s response:
“We have asked the operator to submit documentation to show cause why they believe they can operate without the required authorizations and we await their reply. Until we have an opportunity to review their submissions, we have directed them to cease and desist from operation.”
“People often begrudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves.” The MTA and the DOT should not try to prevent others from using a service that they are no longer able to provide.

What do you think? Can private enterprises do a better job providing service to Southern Brooklyn, which suffered the most severe MTA service cuts?