Op-ed pieces are always very hopeful, but we will remain optimistic that Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer will be able to take the one written by lawyer Gene Russianoff of Straphangers' Campaign seriously. Russianoff offers a roadmap to help navigate the MTA, given the huge deficits ahead and the reliance on mass transit that many New Yorkers enjoy. You should read the essay yourself, but here are the points:
1. Appoint transportation professionals - "not political cronies"
2. Fare hikes cannot be the only way to raise money for the MTA:
3. Support capital projects like the Second Avenue Subway and the LIRR-Grand Central link, plus the bus rapid transit program, but don't sacrifice core maintenance for them.
A fare increase should be considered only as part of a comprehensive package that includes dedicated transit taxes and other fees. In the past, corporations, consumers, automobile drivers and other stakeholders have contributed to transportation revenue with earmarked taxes and fees. All these groups benefit from a mass transit system that fuels the region’s economic growth and reduces traffic congestion.
But given Mr. Spitzer’s previously stated opposition to tax increases, other potential financing sources must also be considered. These include administrative savings; new motor vehicle and other traffic-related fees; maximizing revenue obtained through the sale of M.T.A. assets; and stopping the Albany shell game by which the state purports to contribute general funds to the M.T.A. in the form of already dedicated transit taxes.
4. Make the MTA accountable by appointing a "tough inspector general"
(not that the MTA board takes an IG seriously) plus "strengthen the budget office that oversees public authorities"
We love the reference to the Albany shell game! Given the reliance of the state on NYC tax revenue, it's only fair that some of it is kicked back to the city. Like Mr. Russianoff, Gothamist hopes that Spitzer will take mass transit issues seriously - and take more mass transit himself. Update: Reader mike notes that Russianoff is on Spitzer's transition team - here's hoping that means these suggestions are being taken seriously already.
Photograph of "monster" (during Halloween) from Kathryn on Flickr