The City Hall stop, open to Transit Museum members this past weekend, evokes the grandeur of another age. (Courtesy of Triborough on Flickr)
Toward the end of last week, I wrote about the financial troubles of the MTA’s current capital fund. Over the weekend, a more influential voice chimed in as The Times ran an editorial in The City Section urging Albany to folk over the funds for the necessary subway repairs.
Here’s what The Times had to say. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s good to see New York’s paper of record taking up this underreported cause even if just in The City section.
Underfunded for years by the administration of Gov. George Pataki, the M.T.A. became dependent on borrowing to make up the difference, and it has had to divert hundreds of millions of dollars annually just to service the debt interest. Ever-increasing operating budget shortfalls are projected, approaching $2 billion in 2010. Mr. Spitzer’s first budget seems to do little to change the trend.
All this occurs as the city relies more and more on public transit. Some 7.5 million people ride daily, more than ever before. And as the population continues to grow — to a projected 9 million in the next 20 years — the battle against wear and tear can be expected to further overwhelm resources. The city’s subways are in much better shape than they were in the 1980s, when filth, delays and crime were commuters’ constant companions. To remain that way, and to meet future needs, the system needs intensive care, and a realistic contribution from Albany.
Personally, I couldn’t agree more. New York itself is sitting pretty politically these days. Our Senator with Brooklyn roots just delivered the Senate into Republican hands. A Manhattan representative holds the purse strings in the House. And our governor is a city boy as well. I have to hope that the MTA and the five boroughs can enjoy some of the political pork as spoils soon.
The editorial in The Times also delves into my territory: the Second Avenue Subway. The Times board believes these big projects such as the Second Avenue Subway should be put on hold indefinitely while the necessary upgrades and modernization projects are completed. To this, I say, no. The Second Avenue Subway has been put on indefinite hold for the past 70 years, and it’s time for this project to go forward.
As the trains on the East Side grow more and more crowded, what better way exists to alleviate the pressures on that aging system than by building a new line parallel to that one? While I am no MTA economist, I have to believe that a new line in an overtaxed area may actually lower the modernization costs for the old line because the system wouldn’t be facing the same crush of people as the 4, 5 and 6 do now.
Of course, I know the city needs to maintain the current system so that everyone can keep riding. But they need to find a way to build new lines at the same time. We should be working to find money for both and not just one of the projects. It’s too bad The Times didn’t acknowledge that on Sunday as well.