In a bold show of populist indignation, the fountain-pen-chewing scribes of the New York Times's opinion desk would like to point out that the subway is crowded and rundown, and Gov. Cuomo should do something about it.
Anyone who has squeezed into a subway car recently in New York City knows in a very up-close and uncomfortable way that the city’s mass transit system is overloaded. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority confirmed this week that ridership has indeed soared. The system handled 1.75 billion rides last year — a number not seen since the late 1940s, when many fewer people drove. That compares with just over a billion rides in 1980 and 1.3 billion in 2000.
Yet parts of this network are more than a century old, and a $32 billion plan to restore, repair and generally upgrade the system over five years is short more than $15 billion. This problem falls squarely on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will have to find new revenues to expand and modernize a system that is vital to the city’s economy. When the city’s economy suffers, so does the entire state.
This all seems commonsensical enough, but coming from the Times, a year and a half removed from an op-ed screed opposing Citi Bike on the basis of its color and corporate logo, it's refreshing. The editorial goes on to argue in support of the Move NY plan, which would create $5 tolls on the East River bridges, decrease the tolls on bridges further from mass transit, and use the estimated $1.5 billion per year in increased revenue for transit and road upgrades.
It's worth noting that the aforementioned $15 billion hole in the MTA's five-year capital budget means that even if the toll plan went into effect right away and all the extra money went towards trains and buses, the hole would still only be half-filled.
Cuomo, who controls the MTA and has the most power of anybody over the state budget, has called the capital plan "bloated," which we guess means that the brown rivers running down station walls, the constant delays caused by malfunctioning signals, and the occasional derailment due to broken tracks are facts of life that New York City should shut up and accept already.
Well, the Times isn't lying down on this one. Contrary to the opinion in vogue among some of its monocle-wearing readers, it concludes, "The subway is not a trivial or parochial matter. As Mitchell Moss of New York University told The Times recently, mass transit is now “the way people organize their lives."
Thanks for that insight, Mitchell Moss. Your move, Cuomo.
Updated to clarify that the anti-Citi Bike screed was an op-ed, and that Move NY's revenue projection would fund $1 billion per year toward the MTA, eventually covering the debt created if the agency put out bonds to cover the $15 billion in immediate capital budgetary needs.