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Have the Days of Scapegoating the MTA Come to an End?
Posted By Charles Komanoff On November 12, 2012 @ 11:31 am In Bridge Tolls,MTA,Streetsblog | 11 Comments
MTA Love. Two words that have never before been paired have been practically joined at the hip during the recovery from Superstorm Sandy. To wit:
Compare this MTA love with the scathing criticism of underperforming Con Ed, the Long Island Power Authority, the Port Authority, and the region’s gasoline suppliers, and you can sense a long-overdue reversal underway in the public’s view of the region’s primary public transportation provider: from “rathole” to miracle worker — or at least, after the hubbub dies down, to workmanlike, dependable, and indispensable.
If permanent, that would be a big shift, indeed. And it brings up three questions:
We think the answer to all three questions could and should be a resounding “yes,” particularly for #3.
Recall that distrust of the MTA may have been the biggest impediment to enacting Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s toll plan in 2007-2008, second only perhaps to the perception that Manhattan was getting off scot-free. “MTA rathole” was the meme brandished by opponents then, in tandem with the infamous (and false) “two sets of books.” Subsequent fare hikes and service cuts haven’t exactly eased resistance to handing the authority a big new revenue source. Why raise more money for the MTA, the argument has gone, when it can’t be trusted with what it already has?
That line may no longer fly in a post-Sandy world. Not only has the MTA’s oft-maligned workforce more than proven its mettle under fire, but transit’s intrinsic and essential value to the region’s economy has become screamingly apparent. Two days after the storm struck, while drivers were mired in (and causing) monumental traffic jams, millions of New Yorkers were again riding buses and trains to jobs and other destinations around the region. And well before the second week was out, “[N]early everything under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s auspices, from its commuter railroads to its bridges and tunnels, [was] running close to normal,” Flegenheimer wrote , even as “desperate drivers [have had to] wait in line for hours to fill their tanks,” according to another Times story on Friday , on account of persistent gasoline shortages that have had the authorities posting police at filling stations.
Okay, perhaps we’re seeing eternal sunshine in a patch of clear sky. The two of us are allied with Gridlock Sam, as chief number-cruncher and political strategist, respectively. But in the year since Cuomo put Lhota in charge of the MTA, we’ve observed the tenor of public opinion begin shifting from virulently anti-MTA to, well, something less negative and more-nuanced — a skepticism waiting, and perhaps wanting, to be dispelled.
Has public opinion changed course in Sandy’s wake? If so, the MTA and, indeed, the entire regional transportation network could be embarking on a new era, in which smart, daring plans like Gridlock Sam’s toll-rebalancing scheme actually stand a fair chance of adoption.
Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff is a long-time traffic pricing modeler and advocate. Alex Matthiessen is the director of the Move NY campaign (to enact “Sam’s Plan”) and president of Matthiessen Strategies, Inc.
Article printed from Streetsblog New York City: http://www.streetsblog.org
URL to article: http://www.streetsblog.org/2012/11/12/have-the-days-of-scapegoating-the-mta-come-to-an-end/
URLs in this post:
 Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Patrick Cashin: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtaphotos/8159586659/in/set-72157631938986786/
 enthusiastic round of applause: http://www.cityandstateny.com/mtas-lhota-not-allowed-to-address-mayoral-rumors/
 Subway Repairs Border on the Edge of Magic: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/nyregion/new-york-subways-find-magic-in-speedy-hurricane-recovery.html
 later elaborated: http://www.nytimes.com/video/2012/11/09/nyregion/100000001895115/subway-repairs-that-seem-magical-to-some.html
 editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/opinion/remember-the-mta.html
 city-regional toll realignment: http://www.scribd.com/doc/112914092/Move-NY-Sam-s-Plan-Presentation
 Times story on Friday: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/nyregion/new-york-city-imposes-gas-rationing-to-ease-shortage.html
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