THE COMMUTE: Mayor Bill de Blasio wants us to ‘stand up’ for transportation… yet he won’t do the same. It’s true. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. It’s not only the bridges but also the high number of potholes that appear every winter season. The city would rather spend money on potholes and then brag about the number they filled. The truth is, if streets were resurfaced more frequently than every 30 or 40 years, there wouldn’t be nearly as many potholes to fill and our roads would be in much better shape.
There is a website in which the Department of Transportation (DOT) claims you can check the last time your block was resurfaced, but that site really shows the last time a street repair was performed on your block. So if one pothole was repaired, the entire block gets checked off as the road being repaired. But I digress.
Mayor de Blasio wants us to tell the federal government that we stand up for transportation and want more funds dedicated to transportation. This is what he wants us to share on Facebook. In fact, providing more funds to save our crumbling infrastructure was one of Obama’s campaign promises during his first run for president and was one of the reasons I voted for him. So what happened? And why isn’t de Blasio doing his part, not only by spending enough to resurface our roads, but to support the MTA?
Decades ago, the MTA under vigorous protest, instituted a half fare plan for senior citizens as well as half or no fare for school students. They claimed their budget could just not afford it. The city assured the MTA that these reduced fares would not cost the MTA a dime because the city would make up the entire difference. Somehow, over the years, the city managed to shift part of that burden to the state, which has also cut transportation funding to the city.
Additionally, as neighborhood schools became less in vogue, the MTA had to provide more funds to transport students for further distances on buses. In the 1970s, the MTA had no idea where the students rode buses, and the high number of students boarding often meant that the buses were too crowded for the MTA’s other customers at school dismissal time all over the city.
When the MTA added traffic checkers in 1984, they had a better handle on the situation, and school service was greatly increased without any additional help from the city. That placed an unfair burden on the MTA. At Kingsborough Community College alone, the MTA adds 12 buses at school dismissal time. Readers of this column know how even this amount of service is grossly deficient and mismanaged.
So, if the city really contributed its fair share to mass transit, it might be around or more than $1 billion (not $40 million) when you consider all the bus service the MTA provides just to serve school students, even though, technically, anyone can ride these buses. (If they were designated as school buses, the MTA would be required to paint those buses yellow.) If the MTA did not provide these buses, the city would have to, as they do in most other cities, so it is only fair that the city contribute its fair share.
Second Avenue Sagas has more about the numbers and the hypocrisy. We stand up enough for transportation everyday by not getting a seat. It is time the city also stood up for transportation by at least keeping its promise that reduced fares won’t cost the MTA a dime as well as paying for the services it doesn’t have to provide itself.
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).
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