In one of the strongest pro-MTA editorials yet, The Times on Thursday urged New Yorkers to call upon Albany to save the MTA. It is a message I’ve harped upon for weeks and one well worth repeating.
As its new “doomsday” budget makes clear, the authority will require all sorts of drastic measures just to stay even. Without help from Albany, there will be fewer trains and buses, and a few subway lines and bus routes will be canceled altogether…
Governor Paterson and the Legislature must do whatever they can to keep the system from regressing to the slow and shabby days of the 1970s. A sensible course has been suggested by a commission led by Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the transportation authority. The commission proposes raising revenues for public transit by installing tolls on Harlem River and East River bridges that do not already have tolls and levying a modest payroll tax for businesses, unions and governments in the New York City area.
Not surprisingly, the idea of new tolls has provoked a huge outcry from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and most city politicians have retreated from the idea. What this means, of course, is that the people who take their cars to work are winning out against the millions who take public transit. This is as unfair as it is environmentally unsound. Moreover, unless drivers pay their fair share, employers are likely to resist a new payroll tax proposed to help shore up the system.
New tolls and taxes are unpleasant. But longer waits and longer commutes and dirtier trains and much higher fares for millions of people who depend on public transit are more so. The remedy now depends on Albany.
In a sense, The Times is echoing what I wrote on Monday when I explored the vast difference between the numbers of drivers and transit commuters in Brooklyn. Why they published such an important editorial on Christmas Day, a notoriously slow news day, I do not know.
What I do know though and what The Times notes, many more people will be negatively impacted by a poorly funded MTA than by a bunch of bridge tolls on the East River. We’ll find out in a few weeks who will pay the most for the MTA’s woes. If the drivers don’t pay, the city as a whole will suffer, and Albany should make sure the MTA gets what it needs.