|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Still - the MTA Crisis
The Spring and Summer of 2017 has brought a crisis to the working people
of the City of New York with the MTA. Long festering problems seemed to
have bubbled up into a frothy cauldron of troubles leaving New Yorkers
contemplating the viability of a living in this city.Commuting, family
trips to the Zoo and the Beach, doctors appointments, every routine trip
has become cause for worry. Venturing into our mass transit system has
become arduous and dangerous. A typical trip involves confronting
menacing, endless pan handling, religious sermons, confrontations with
the mentally ill and otherwise dangerous individuals, urine human feces
in stairwells and elevators, and shanty town encampments at subways
stations all along the system.
Added to this, the system itself is in a state of total dysfunction.
Rush Hour has been effectively cancelled by the MTA several times in May
and June to the cost of billions of dollars of business losses and
wages. Twice, the MTA has reported that power outages in Brooklyn's
Dekalb Avenue hub had forced the shutdown for over 45 minutes the entire
Atlantic Avenue - Dekalb Avenue complex during apex of the morning rush
hour. Both on May 7th and May 9th, 2017 the MTA reported outages by
ConEd. ConEd in turn reports that there was no outage on Sunday, just a
voltage dip and that on Tuesday they can't find any such equipment
failure. This is not how an enterprise ready system should function.
These mystery outages shut down rush hour traffic for the
B,D,N,Q,R,2,3,4, and 5 trains, covering the bulk of the Borough, and
affecting broadly traffic all the way to the Bronx. And yet power was up
and everything lit up all about Downtown Brooklyn leaving angry
commuters cynical about the durability of the system and the competency
of the upper management. How is it possible that a system that has
successfully run for well over one hundred years, that carried in the
40's and 50's nearly twice the traffic that it does now, that
successfully negotiated two world wars, the great depression, the fiscal
crisis and near bankruptcy of the 1970's, the abuse and neglect of the
1980's, 9-11, and yet seems to be succumbing to signal failures and
minor power outages late into the second decade of the 21st century?
How is it possible that after recently pouring billions of dollars into
track work and platform improvements, to the tune of over 40 billion
dollars of MTA capital debt, that the system is now incapable of its
primary function which is to move trains and people in a clean, and safe
Commuters cynicism has been cruelly confirmed with a head-on derailment
of the A train in July, the result of sloppy maintenance secondary to
track work. The resulting rush hour derailment killed service uptown and
in the Bronx, stranding everything above 59th street, including Harlem,
Washington Heights, Ingelwood, and the Bronx, while disrupting service
all along the A,C,D and B trains.
Just prior to this, on June 5th, the F train passengers were stranded
for hours below surface for no apparent reason, between the West 4th
Street and Broadway-Lafayette Street stations, two of the most familiar
and closest stations in Manhattan, until passengers smashed windows for
relief. The New York Times reported:
"It felt like a greenhouse. It felt like we were going to suffocate,"
said Michael Sciaraffo, 36, an analyst for the New York City Department
of Parks and Recreation. He was on his way home to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn,
when the train slowed to a halt and suddenly went silent and black. "We
were trying to keep cool. We were coming close to the point where people
were ready to start flipping out," he said. "We were teetering
Obviously, even the most incompetent stewardship of any organization, if
after pouring billions of dollars into a product, if it then failed to
deliver on the most basic enterprise milestones, that management team
would be relieved of duty and humiliated. That the stewards of the MTA,
the Mayor of New York City and the Governor of New York State, face this
crisis now and while both failed to purge the MTA's upper management,
there passive response goes to the very heart of the problem that has
been a festering sore for generations. The MTA has a disregard for its
customers and no accountability.
It's priorities are drawn up in well lit rooms at 2 Broadway, and 330
Madison Avenue, drumming up big plans and projects, each a line item for
the "subway of the future", while unable to presently consistently move
people safely. It pays off politicians with sprinkles of pet projects,
and has failed on the fundamentals, to provide a safe and reliable ride,
something which has been as dependable as tap water until the recent
The roots of the current crisis finds its way back to the 1930's and the
great expansion of the New York transportation system under the guise of
the New York States Parks Department and Boss Robert Moses. Anyone not
familiar with this classic story of local government gone wild needs to
familiarize themselves with the legend of lore of Boss Moses. From the
1930's to the 1960's, Moses cut through New Yorks legendary stalemate
politics to construct all of the toll bridges which are now owned by the
MTA and developed the major highways that today run through the city.
Among these bridges and tunnels includes the Henry Hudson Bridge,
Triborough Bridge, Queens Midtown Tunnel, The Battery Tunnel, and the
Verrazzano Bridge. Additionally, he was able to cajole the city and
state to foreclose on huge tracks of property to lay out the Cross Bronx
Expressway, the BQE, the Belt Parkway, the Long Island Expressway, Van
Wick Expressway, Grand Central and Interborough Parkways, while building
Jones Beach and promoting good suburban living.
Moses was capable of this astonishing growth by leveraging the toll
booths income to do an end run about the Governor and the Mayor and to
design and implement is projects with just a moniker of public oversite.
When he ran into opposition, he largely just ran it over, sometimes
bribing it to go away, often using the press as his bully pulpit. At
some point, Moses had amassed an enormous political base and challenged
outwardly both the governance of Governor Lehman and Mayor LaGuardia.
One of the few local victories against him was when he threatened to
annihilate the bulk of Brooklyn Heights for his new road system leading
to the Battery Tunnel. The prominent and wealthy people of the Heights
organized against him, finally beating him back, forcing the highway to
run underneath a new promenade, which today is a hallmark of the borough.
In midst of the Depression, Moses was awash with money from the tolls on
the Triborough Bridge. He wanted a bridge instead of a tunnel for the
Brooklyn-Battery connection. And he would have gotten his way since he
controlled the funds, if not for FDR interceding and declaring a bridge
would be a security risk, blocking the Brooklyn Navel Yard if it was
bombed. Moses had raw power with the tolls funding. Out of spite he
tried to raze Castle Clinton in the Battery, one of the country's most
significant historical monuments. The Feds saved it by taking it over,
twice needing to intervene in order to prevent Moses from razing most of
lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn.
LaGuardia was a powerful Mayor. Those that followed him, Vincent R.
Impellitteri, and William O'Dwyer, were mere twigs to the Moses
hurricane. Moses manages to dismiss the NYC zoning commission, ending
the Comprehensive Zoning Plan, took over the department of housing and
interceded himself between New York City and the power and deep pockets
in Washington, D.C. He helped drive the Dodgers to Los Angeles, built
Lincoln Center, planed what would be Shea Stadium, and built the fair
grounds for the two Worlds Fairs in Flushing Meadows, the 1964 version
being boycotted by the Bureau of International Expositions which was in
charge of World Fairs, and losing a ton of money in the process.
No such luck, however, was available to the communities of the Bronx
when he all but scorched the fabric of the Borough with the construction
of the Cross Bronx Expressway. Nor did Windsor Terrace fair well, being
ripped in half by the Prospect Expressway. In the ultimate irony, he was
bigoted against any kind of railway service. Plans to add rail service
over the Verrazzano bridge was scraped, leaving Staten Island without a
significant rail link until this day. Airport rail services were
dismissed. While the inner city communities where demolished, scared and
run over, Moses promoted the likes of Jones Beach and the new Eden of
Long Island suburbia, while city mass transit was slowly squeezed until
the mid-1970's when usage and service cuts brought the system to its
bare bones. The 2nd avenue subway was scrapped, and the collective
memory of the abuse by Robert Moses lead to New Yorks being still
skittish and reactionary in response to any development.
It wasn't until Mayor Lindsey and Governor Rockefeller finally teamed up
to remove Moses from power, nearly 30 years later, that things finally
ended for the toll driven fiefdom of Robert Moses. Lindsey had Moses
removed as Chief Advocate for NYC infrastructure in Washington. They
eyed using the toll money to support a new organization, the MTA.
New York has permanent political scars from the Moses experience.
Projects that are no brainers and simple to negotiate in cities like
Chicago and Houston die in New York in the colossal web of local
reviews, political grandstanding, and unhealthy intransigence. It is
sad. It took a whopping 14 years after 9-11 to decide that to do with
the World Trade Center site, which is still under construction at this
late date of July 2017.
It wasn't until Robert Moses directly threatened the power and prestige
of Mayor Lindsey and the Governor, that finally anything was done to
curb Moses. He was far better funded than either politician and it took
a full court press to finally get Moses to succumb. And when the dust
settled, the State gave the entire financial empire of the Moses
machine, the tolls from all across the city of New York, and handed it,
lock stock and barrel to the newly formed Metropolitan Transit
Authority. Along with a commuter tax, and surcharges to regional
telephone service, and additional revenues from the gasoline tax, the
MTA should be as well funded as nearly any institution in Western
Civilization that is not the US Military. And in fact, today the MTA has
more funding than at any time in its history. So you would think it
would be able to manage, and yet somehow the MTA seems to always come up
The Manhattan Institute points out in its executive summary of the MTA
in 2017 titled, "THE MTAâ€™S ESCALATING COST CRISIS" the following:
Government officials, including the governor, as well as outside
policymakers, have blamed a lack of funding. Yet a historical
review of the MTA's finances reveals that the authority is taking
in a record amount of revenue. The MTA's revenues have more than
kept up with inflation and with service enhancements to keep up
with ridership growth.
On the surface, it would seem that it would take massive incompetency to
take the economic engine of the Roberts Moses machine, and bankrupt it.
It just defies common sense that it would be possible. And yet, this is
exactly what the MTA claims to have happened under their watch. We went
from graffiti filled, urine odored trains, stations and depots before
Hugh Cary, followed by Rudy Guilliani and Pataki finally stepped in with
a massive infusion of capital and debt that financed the rebuilding of
hundreds of stations. and purchased 100's of air conditioned subway
cars, to being 40 billion in debt and unable to keep simple switches
Early reconstruction, in the 1980's was carefully debated and analyzed,
the public agreed to allow the MTA borrow money and roll out the
reconstruction of stations up and down the system from Times Square to
Stillwell Avenue. And yet, the question has to be asked, why was it
needed to borrow to do this basic maintenance?
By 2000, New Yorkers had started to catch onto the game of crisis
finances with the MTA. They proposed a referendum to borrow a then
record 3.8 billion split between the MTA and upstate roads. The report
from the NY Times, who is usually an apologist for MTA spending, admited:
In New York, the measure would have allowed the state to raise
$3.8 billion through general obligation bonds with $1.6 billion
going to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the
city's mass transit systems. The measure would have allocated an
additional $1.9 billion for the state highway program, with the
remaining $300 million for upstate transit systems, bridges and
for other purposes.
The bonds were seen as especially crucial for the M.T.A., which
needs a reliable chunk of money for a $17.1 billion, five-year
capital plan. The plan has been widely criticized because it
relies on expensive refinancing of old debt and requires the
agency to issue bonds for new debt on top of that.
When the second round of building made it's way, the public got pretty
hip to the scam the MTA was putting over on us. Alan Hevesi accused them
of running two sets of books and a new capital borrowing was soundly
defeated at the polls. Much of us thought that finally we would see
sensible funding applied to the MTA. We forgot the lessons of Boss
Moses. Little did we know that the MTA's shell games was just beginning,
and that planners for the system had on the drawing board billions of
dollars of expansions, and supposed improvements that would get shunted
to the capital budget as debt, only to return to the riders a few years
up the road as fares and tolls increased.
We never dreamed that in addition to the massive waste, that these
idiots that ran the MTA would also bring the system to its knees with
derailments, service outages, with passenger safety being put at risk,
and a rampant rat infestation and stations turned into homelessness
shelters. The MTA has all but declared war on the riding public, and in
doing so has drawn a dagger right to the heart of the city's vitality
and economic development.
Let's look, for example, at the case of Macy's and Herald Square. As one
of the crown jewels of New York City's corporate citizenry and symbol of
so much of our legacy. Tourists and locals flock to their central store
to spend afternoons, shopping and dining in an organization that truly
understands customer service and communal participation. From the
Thanksgiving Day Parade, to the fireworks on the 4th of July, Macy's has
packed in crowds for generations. People come from all around the city
to attend Macy's events and shop at the flagship store.
They pour in through the Herald Square subway station, the PATH Train
and the LIRR, and during the Christmas season it is nearly a crush to
navigate all seven stories of the store.
Packed with Macy's shopping bags, seen all about Broadway, everything
stops when one reenters the 34th street train station. Aside from being
unbearably hot, with air so thick that is makes it hard to breath, the
station stinks not only from urine, but also from the over 20
permanently settled homeless people who threaten passengers, take over
all the benches, fill the trash cans up with boxes of rotting garbage
and turn the 6th Avenue line into a shany town.
Macy's customers pack onto filthy trains with vomit and garbage in cars
occupied by even more homeless. Few places in the city stand in starker
contrast. How can the city be allowed to treat a model citizen such and
RH Macy's so abusively to make its primary transit access a rat infested
3rd world slum?
Welcome to Macy's, and Welcome to New York City.
By the time the press finally got a handle of this ghastly situation,
the Mayor and the Governor kicked back and forth responsibility for the
current crises. It is a circus that is not worth repeating here. Find it
in the NY Post and the Daily News. The MTA itself has apologized and
gave a perfectly plausible sounding explanation and plan for a fix of
the situation. And this is where New Yorkers need listen to what is
being said by the MTA very carefully, and to understand what is the
meaning of what they are say.
The MTA said that it has misused its capital budget for big ticket items
instead of having an accelerated track signal replacement program. And
furthermore, they are blaming underfunding, particularly the failure to
toll the Brooklyn Bridge, as a reason for funding shortcomings.
Really, Robert Moses could steam over all of NYC's government, threaten
Washington DC, build the worlds longest suspension bridge, and turn New
York State into his private fiefdom with the earnings from the tolls
that the MTA now possesses, but this leadership, and its band of experts
and press followers can't get so much as the B trains switches to work
during rush hour and reliably move a train from W4th Street to Broadway
Lafayette. We are hearing echos that they need congestion pricing on the
East River Bridges. It kills the MTA that anyone can move from Brooklyn
to Manhattan without them getting a cut. It is a nightmare, and we have
to end it.
Not only does the MTA have the largest funding it has ever had, and its
funding outside of dept-services has beaten inflation by 50%. In total
it is up to 15.7 billion dollars in revenue, and only 8 percent of that
is from Moses Tolls and transportation fares.
Something is seriously wrong and feeding this monster is not the answer.
What we need to do is hold it accountable. It is time to dismantle the
MTA. Hand the NY Transit back to NYC along with the tolled roads, and
hand the LIRR and Metro North back to NY State and let Nassau and
Westchester grapple with it.
It's been said from upstate politicians that they don't want to pay MTA
taxes since it helps NYC more than Orange County. That is a falsehood,
with a touch of maliciousness towards the city added in. If they don't
need the MTA, there is no reason for NYC to pay for MetroNorth. If
MetroNorth, and New Jersey, and Long Island things its growth is not
tied to the transportation grid that connects it to NYC, I'm willing to
run that experiment. What I am not willing to do is to continue with a
public cooperation which is not accountable to anyone.
The MTA has huge pockets when it comes to spending our money. They have
WIFI in subway stations now so the homeless can feel more connected,
signalling systems that know the absolute location of every train as
they sit between stations in lower Manhattan for an hour at a time. We
have endless countdown clocks and smartphone aps to tell us where every
bus is, instead of just giving us that we want which is swift and
regular buses, and dependable and fast trains.
The MTA has built and entire new floor to Grand Central Station, which
was under capacity to begin with, so that LIRR riders don't need to take
the subway across town. It would have been cheaper to make that a free
transfer from Atlantic Avenue. It buys million dollar buses that can't
handle passenger service, but are state of the art eclectic buses. We
have more signage telling us how to behave than signage to tell us what
train we are on. It never ends.
The system that had virtually no capital debt in 1980, today struggles
with $40,000,000,000 in capital debt. That is $5000 for every man, woman
and child in New York City. That is 2.5 billion in debt service a year.
That is 2.5 billion in debt service a year.
Consider this. The Times reports:
As New York City's sprawling subway faces a deepening crisis
over delays, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says
that modernizing the signals is a top priority. But the rollout
of a new signal network is unfolding at a glacial pace even as
the subway system is straining under the demands of a booming
ridership. Two decades after the agency began its push to upgrade
signals, work has been completed on just one line.
At the current pace, transforming every subway line could take
half a century and cost $20 billion.
We obviously can not continue like this. While the press and the MTA
keeps blaming its troubles on an "ancient" infrastructure, particularly
switches, the truth is that the system in 1940 had almost twice the
number of rides, and a particularly intense rush hour in the days when
Wall Street was filled with brokers, secretaries, feeders, and dozens of
other category of workers that have been put out of the workforce by the
digital era. And yet they can't fix and replace a 19th century piece of
technology like a simple switch... you know a switch is a switch....
exactly like the light switch in the bathroom. We have to ask what are
they building and why are they do it?
Meanwhile, the Mayor has to take the major blame for the Subway
problems. Why? Here is why:
There is no excuse for this. This is a direct result of a Mayor who just
doesn't give a damn about working New Yorkers who are struggling to
raise families in the York City. His attitude towards us is disgraceful.
It is almost as bad as this vomit in a subway car I photographed here.
Here is a typical Mayoral attitude towards our suffering.
"Why would I want to give up NYC taxpayer dollars, which are
not abundant?" Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. "The
state has not reimbursed the MTA for the money it took. Let's
do that first." -- Bill De Blasio
Faced with a systemwide breakdown and an MTA leadership which just
continually soaks up more and more money, this Mayor is not even aware
of what the voters suffer, let alone can properly advocate for cost
containment in a rational manner, let alone normal police protection
within the tunnels and platforms of the subway. He is a bad man, and has
to go if we are to get anywhere with the highly corrupt selffunding MTA.
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town
that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological
proportions in the mind of the world - RI Safir 1998
DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002
http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and extermination camps,
but incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
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