New Yorkers can't pay $2.75 to get onto the subway to get to the place to make less money than we did a decade ago without something catching on fire or breaking or both. Where can we find the cash to patch up our infuriatingly inefficient, perennially indebted, comically crowded transit system? Not from the demigods who are so bored and untouchable they're building superfluous floating parks and letting children pin the tail on the condo. No, the enemy must be something vague, ineluctable, unassailable. "Congress." Yeah, "Congress" should give us the money.
As Mayor de Blasio pointed out in an op-ed yesterday, federal transit funding has remained stagnant since 2009 (what he didn't point out is that the City's contribution to the MTA has similarly stalled for the past 14 years). The article is part of a PR campaign to Get The Word Out that we should all #StandUp4Transportation the next time we see our Congressional representatives on the squash court, or at the ribbon cutting, or whatever.
So how did the Mayor get his message across? Did he lash himself to a crumbling piece of the Tappan Zee? Fog up the windows on the crosstown M79? Experience the peristalsis of a million writhing bodies, gasping and grimacing to get off the 4/5/6 at 5 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon?
The Mayor took the R train from Park Slope to City Hall.
Our transportation system keeps this city connected. Take mass transit to work tomorrow like I am. Together we can #StandUp4Transportation.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) April 9, 2015
"I was gonna take the SUV I had fitted with a fucking A/C unit," New Yorkers mused upon seeing the mayor's tweet. "Or maybe have Manservant Henry carry me on foot over the Manhattan Bridge like a child, but OK, yeah, mass transit. Exotic!"
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) April 9, 2015
And so de Blasio, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Kathryn Wylde got on the R train at Fourth Avenue / Ninth Street to form the band of Wow Can You Believe Us Important People Are Actually In This Shithole With You Nobodies?
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) April 9, 2015
A New York Times reporter was there to enshrine the moment:
Mr. Schumer said loudly that he had $20 left on his MetroCard. “Do we go on just any old subway?” he asked the group. They did. And then the politicians, holding stacks of paper outlining the reason for their visit — urging Congress to increase transportation funding — began working the car. “We’ve spent a few days leafleting in our time,” the mayor said to Mr. Schumer. Mr. Schumer urged riders to put a “selfie” on social media describing the event. One rider asked how his wife, Iris Weinshall -- the former DOT commissioner under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg -- was doing. The mayor stayed on message. “Can you help us?” “We’re trying to create pressure?” “Can you help us out on this? We need your voice heard.”
The Important People only had 20 minutes—every second counts!
As the R pulled into Union Street, an abrupt stop left Mr. Schumer stumbling down the aisle. “I’m falling down,” he reported. Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Schumer worked their way to the south end of the car, where the senator began filibustering a half-dozen riders about the gas tax. A woman got up to leave. “Is this your stop?” Mr. Schumer asked. She walked toward the doors but did not get off right away. One man had begun recording the two speakers with his phone. Two seats over, a woman, inches from Mr. de Blasio, declined to look up. She was reading Page Six of the New York Post. Then, for reasons not immediately clear to the pool, the Boston accents began. “Wicked fahhh,” Mr. de Blasio said. The senator joined him. “Green Monstahhhh,” Mr. Schumer said. They laughed. “That’s actually how we talk,” the mayor said dryly. Mr. Schumer turned attention to his tie, which included renderings of pigs, eggs and blocks of cheese. He called it a “breakfast tie” and asked riders to guess why. (The answer: “bacon, egg and cheese.”)
At a press conference at the end of the momentous subway ride (the Mayor later said he took mass transit "a week or two ago" without media present) de Blasio was asked about the stagnant city funding for the MTA:
Mayor: We’re going to obviously be presenting our executive budget in about a month. And we’re going to be saying more about what we can do in terms of the MTA, at that point. The city has a fine tradition of investing in mass transit. Now obviously, we have a huge investment we make in infrastructure, in terms of roads and bridges. We put a great deal of additional resources into our last executive budget for roads and bridges, and you’ll see a continued commitment there. This bill, again, transcends mass transit as well as highways and bridges and roads. So I think the bottom line is the city is making a big commitment already. But in Washington, for 12 straight years, the number hasn’t moved. Inflation has happened. Infrastructure has gotten older and older, but the number hasn’t moved in Washington. So we’re talking about a highway trust fund that may or may not be renewed for short-term, for long-term - may not be any more money. And that would have a hugely negative affect on this country if that number doesn’t move.
Question: I think the point though was that it also hasn’t moved in the city -
Mayor: Again, I’m trying to say to you - we’re going to have more to say on the mass transit piece. But on the roads, bridges, highways piece, the city investment has gone up quite a bit in recent years.
Had he at least looked at the MoveNY proposal that would enact tolls on the East River bridges and lower tolls for the outer boroughs and raise the kind of revenue necessary to #StandUp4Transportation?
Question: Following up on Gloria’s question, two months ago you said you hadn’t reviewed the MoveNY plan. Are you planning to review it?
Mayor: At some point, sure.
Question: What’s taking so long?
Mayor: Just other things that we’re working on. Anything else? Going once -
Cut the guy some slack, he's been busy.