Governor Cuomo, who may or may not be in charge of the subways (Ron Howard voice: He is.) famously hasn't ridden on the subway in nearly eight months, though he did recently go into a subway station to point at some of the broken stuff. And it appears Cuomo's not the only elected official "allegedly" responsible for keeping the MTA functional who can't be bothered to regularly experience firsthand the nightmare they have forged—indeed, many upstate lawmakers can't seem to recall the last time they set foot on the subway and prefer instead to walk or take cabs if they're in the city, for some puzzling reason.
The Times reached out to 37 state senators representing districts outside of New York City and the Bronx/Westchester to find out if they rode the subway the last time they were in town, and the result was not great. Only 11 of the senators responded, and not many seemed intimately familiar with our beloved crumbly public transportation system.
A spokesperson for Republican state senator Robert G. Ortt told the Times he "hasn’t had a recent experience with the NYC subway system," while Democrat David J. Valesky's spokesperson said he hadn't ridden the subway in years. A spokesperson for upstate Republican Joseph A. Griffo, the deputy majority whip in the State Senate, told the Times "[h]e usually either walks or takes an Uber or taxi," a luxury not afforded to most of us who have to commute long distances at least twice a day.
While it's not outlandish for sporadic NYC visitors to forgo the subway in favor of more comfortable transportation, it is problematic that those responsible for funding the MTA don't understand how essential it is, and how years of neglecting it have crippled the city.
An analysis from the Independent Budget Office found city workers alone have missed 17,143 hours of work in 2017 thus far and are expected to lose 26,000 total, up from 19,417 hours missed in 2016. Other New Yorkers have complained about lost hours, lost wages, and lost jobs thanks to delays, and multiple people were injured when an A train derailed in Harlem in June.
But if you don't ride the subway even occasionally, not to mention regularly, how can you recognize the urgency at hand? State senators may have to vote on two major funding overhauls—Mayor de Blasio's so-called "millionaire tax," which would levy a 0.5 percent tax on individuals who make over $500,000 and married couples who make more than $1 million, and Governor Cuomo's proposal for congestion pricing, which in its most effective form would charge drivers tolls in an effort to reduce traffic and drum up revenue for the MTA. (We don't know what exactly the Governor's congestion pricing plan looks like, because he has provided no details on it.)
Unfortunately for the five and a half million people who ride the subway every weekday, there's not a whole lot of support for either potential plan in Albany, whose State Senate is currently controlled by upstate Republicans, aided by a breakaway group of renegade Democrats who caucus with them. John J. Flanagan, the Senate's majority leader, rejected de Blasio's millionaire tax earlier this month. Congestion pricing plans failed on a state level during Mayor Bloomberg's time in office. In a primary debate last week, Mayor de Blasio called congestion pricing "very unfair to the outer boroughs," despite the fact that the most prominent congestion pricing plan, called MoveNY, actually lowers tolls on many outer borough bridges.
Long Island Republican Carl Marcellino told the Times he opposed the millionaire's tax and congestion pricing. His plan for fixing the subway? The mayor and governor should "come together and stop playing silly games," he said. Marcellino has not recently ridden the subway.