Home MTA Politics Paladino: MTA ‘needs to be abolished’

Paladino: MTA ‘needs to be abolished’

by Benjamin Kabak

When it comes to transit policy, Carl Paladino is the gift that keeps on giving. Just one week after threatening to take apart the MTA piece by piece, the Republican nominee for New York State governor said that he wants to flat-out abolish the MTA. His reasons, of course, make no sense.

As Kenneth Lovett of the Daily News relates, Paladino wants to, in the words of the News reporter, “make the agency a state department that answers directly to the governor.” Of course, Paladino conveniently forgets that the governor is responsible for appointing the MTA head and that the authority already answers to the state assembly’s oversight committee.

The best parts though are Paladino’s direct quotes. He said:

“The bottom line is the MTA as we know it today needs to be abolished so the voters can demand that someone can be held accountable for the rampant waste in the system and the taxes and rider fees that feed the bureaucratic beast…

“The MTA is horribly mismanaged and it’s a sinkhole of money. It’s among the least transparent entities in the world and was even found to have kept two separate sets of books. New Yorkers are paying more each year getting less in service.”

Here, Paladino is flat-out lying. As I’ve documented in the past, the 2003 claim by then-Comptroller and now-convicted felon Alan Hevesi that the MTA kept two sets of books was disproved in federal court. Today, the MTA is not among the least transparent authorities in the country but rather among the most transparent. Its budget documents are on full display for anyone to see. Paladino, apparently, has never bothered to look for the information.

Meanwhile, he’s not wrong to say that the authority historically has been a sinkhole of money, but lately, those in charge have reversed that trend. On Jay Walder’s watch, the MTA has cut $730 million in annual expenses and is working to keep costs under control. New Yorkers do pay more for less service, but that’s because Paladino’s GOP predecessors — and in particular, Rudy Giuiliani and George Pataki — foisted billions of dollars of debt onto the MTA in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In the end, Paladino explained his rationale in a way that actually makes some sense. “Mayors, governors and legislators want to be able to rail against the MTA,” he said, “but they really want to be insulated against the decisions that they make so the voters can’t blame them for increasing fares and services cuts.”

As Cap’n Transit wrote back in 2008, that’s exactly why the MTA should be abolished. If the voters knew how badly state officials were screwing over transit and how responsible these officials are for fare hikes and service cuts, perhaps we would see a better approach to transit policy.

But Paladino’s original reasons for abolishing the MTA simply do not hold up to scrutiny. The agency is not horribly mismanaged right now, and it’s quite transparent. There’s still a long road toward a lean structure at the authority, but it’s finally on the right track. Turning it into another subsidiary of the New York State Department of Transportation, as Paladino seems to suggest, would be a considerable setback. The MTA as we knew it five years ago needed to be abolished, and that’s the process we’re seeing unfold today.

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28 comments

Marc Shepherd October 13, 2010 - 12:07 pm

The one good thing about abolishing the MTA is that politicians would no longer have any excuses when they screw it up.

His actual reasons, of course, make no sense at all.

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nycpat October 13, 2010 - 12:23 pm

I agree with this. Authorities are undemocratic and the MTA is set up as a scapegoat. NYCT,B+T, SIRR and MTA BUS should be under mayoral responsibility. The RRs and regional planning and some capital projects under the Governor and “legislature”. Or perhaps the PANYNJ-an authority with a genuine rationale-can be induced to take over the RRs along with NJ Transit. Are we not free people, citizens of a great republic?

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Bolwerk October 13, 2010 - 1:25 pm

I agree the city’s bus and rail services should at a minimum be accountable to the city.

I don’t really know that the PA is such a good idea. It has its own rotten, albeit somewhat profitable, corporate culture, and it certainly doesn’t seem to have a lot of interest in running railroads, if PATH is any indication.

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Marc Shepherd October 13, 2010 - 2:02 pm

There was a time when the city ran the subways, and they did not do a very good job.

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Benjamin Kabak October 13, 2010 - 2:24 pm

This warrants repeating. The city ran the subways for nearly 50 years, and it was not a successful venture. The political pressure to maintain an artificially low fare crippled the system for decades. It’s astounding to me that so many politicians who advocate for the end of the MTA don’t know their history.

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nycpat October 13, 2010 - 4:22 pm

So our system of government doesn’t work. We need a Sanitation Authority, a Police and Corrections Authority etc.

Think twice October 14, 2010 - 12:31 am

@Marc and @Ben

Doesn’t the city own the subways, but they were run by the IRT and BMT under a lease like the NYCTA today. And IMO, 1900 to 1950 were the best years of the subway, in spite of everything.

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Benjamin Kabak October 14, 2010 - 12:39 am

Curious: What about the way the subways were run from 1900-1950 suggests it was better than?

As far as I know, the rolling stock was older, the track conditions were worse, the city couldn’t get post-IND expansion plans off the drawing board, and the finances were so bad by 1953 that the state had to create the TA to rescue the subways from bankruptcy. Ridership was high but that’s because the automobile didn’t yet enjoy widespread use.

Alon Levy October 14, 2010 - 2:31 am

The subway was run okay under the IRT and BMT. The IND was really incompetent, though; like today’s mainline rail operators, it built gold-plated infrastructure with crappy connections to anything but itself.

Think twice October 14, 2010 - 12:52 pm

The BRT went into receivership but came out as the even more profitable and innovative BMT. And remained so right up to when it was arm-twisted into closing by the LaGuardia administration. However the IRT could no longer endure as well in the same hostile environment of the fixed nickel fare and adversarial city politicians who coveted “the traction interests’” revenue stream.

If the initial promise of the TA’s formation was to run it better than it ever was under the private operators, then it failed epically. From what I remember it literally had to take Koch to take direct mayoral intervention and say no more to graffiti on the trains to kick-start the ongoing turnaround.

What worked before was the city having it’s own committees planning it, it’s own in-house engineers designing it, competitive bids from the private sector to build, operate, and partially finance it, then have those publicly-traded firms compete with each other and deal individually with labor unions. What didn’t work at all was the lack of free transfers which went against the hopes of the subway’s planners. Could we have the best of both worlds…perhaps and that’s something that should be studied.

Bruce October 14, 2010 - 7:42 pm

Regarding the bad finances up to 1953–you can thank “master builder” Robert Moses for siphoning away funding for transit everytime you sit and stew on his Van Wyck Expressway–which he intentionally designed to have no room for a transit line running down the center.

pete August 27, 2011 - 2:59 pm

1900 to 1953 ya kidding right! 60 years ago now a Mayor can change laws to be re-elected, charge outrageous fees to cross a bridge. 250 300 bucks sounds a lot to ride a subway but what about over 10 to use a bridge. Now red light and speed camers what next on the agenda to tax the working class. Nobody cares about our pockets being empty or our future, these wealthy or conected men and women sell their soles at Your’s and my expense. Fair tax for wall streat and the other companys ex. G.E. would encrease the coffers. Then put smart HONEST people in charge. Sir charge extra fees tacked on to outrageous parking and trafic violations, where is our voice? When will it end, should we be charged for Emt use? O thats right we do by paying federal, state and local taxes. Thanks Kabak at least we know who you work for!

Think twice October 13, 2010 - 11:50 pm

Agreed as well. Particularly in the case of surface transit; where does the MTA’s responsibility end and NYCDOT’s begin. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

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Chris G October 13, 2010 - 12:52 pm

I am so glad this guy isnt going to be elected. But i’m still going to have to slap my wife for voting for him.

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Bolwerk October 13, 2010 - 1:14 pm

That calls for a divorce!

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Scott E October 13, 2010 - 1:32 pm

Ben, you should forward this column to Metro or amNewYork for inclusion in their papers. Get the word out; ’cause I’m sure the press won’t do it, and unfortunately the masses (particularly the uneducated ones) don’t read this blog, but do listen to quotes like Paladino’s.

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petey October 13, 2010 - 1:46 pm

“Here, Paladino is flat-out lying.”

spot-on.
there just might be enough people who think that anything which comes out of the mouth of a rightwinger is true ipso facto, and if reality contradicts it, then reality is wrong. at least i used to fear that, but what with other of his recent comments i think we’re safe now.

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Christopher October 13, 2010 - 1:50 pm

Now if he pledged to abolish the Governors office, and he might just get my vote.

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Edward October 13, 2010 - 1:53 pm

NYS to Paladino: Shut the hell up and go back to Buffalo, where mass transit is almost non-existant.

Maybe he should try fixing up the absolutely disgraceful Amtrak station in Buffalo first before coming down here and telling the MTA how to run things. Can’t wait for this friggin’ homophobic retard to get his ass handed to him next month.

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Grrrumpy Miner October 13, 2010 - 9:47 pm

correction….20 days away.If this bozo gets elected,may have to seriously think of moving to Joisey.

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John October 13, 2010 - 2:22 pm

As wrong as his reasons are, I am intrigued by the idea of totally abolishing the MTA and building something from scratch to replace it. It would be tricky to try to do that and still keep everything running from day-to-day, but if it were possible it may actually be a decent idea. Even if his reasons for it are misguided and/or utter fiction.

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Pat October 13, 2010 - 3:57 pm

I don’t want the MTA abolished but I do want the idea of a major restructuring of it to be looked at. Yes, it’s great that as I was reminded on Twitter, the books/budget are there for anyone to see if the patience is there.

What I think would make for a good future blog post on here is whether there was any advantage to the days when the 3 entities constructed and ran the subways in New York. Seems like the city didn’t do well with the IND but how were the BMT and IRT run? Would they still be separate had the fare not been kept artificially low?

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SEAN October 13, 2010 - 7:07 pm

What I think would make for a good future blog post on here is whether there was any advantage to the days when the 3 entities constructed and ran the subways in New York. Seems like the city didn’t do well with the IND but how were the BMT and IRT run? Would they still be separate had the fare not been kept artificially low?

I don’t know, but it brings up an interesting question. Based on longterm inflation, what would the nickel fare be today if the fare wasn’t held at that level for 44-years? Are we looking at $3, $4 or something greater per ride v the current $2.25.

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Frank October 13, 2010 - 8:33 pm

I agree with Paladino. The MTA wastes buckets of money, provides declining service, and retires its workers on cushy pensions that no one in private industry has a chance of ever getting. Of course mass transit will exist even if the MTA is abolished…we need MAJOR reform and get the workers and the bureaucrats working for the people not the government. It is amazing that “progressives” seem always to maintain the status quo when it comes to government excess where the money is “taken” from the people…and the criticize private industry wherein most companies have to compete to get their fair share of the market and purchases are completely voluntary (and I am not taking about big Banks and brokerage houses who are in bed with the government and the democrat party).

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petey October 14, 2010 - 12:15 pm

“big Banks and brokerage houses who are in bed with the government and the democrat party”
and the publican party too

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Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines October 14, 2010 - 8:54 am

[…] Carl Paladino Has This MTA-Bashing Thing Down Cold (News, SAS) […]

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Walder, a subway rider, wants to serve full term :: Second Ave. Sagas October 14, 2010 - 3:01 pm

[…] I’ve heard that Walder will keep his job. Carl Paladino, on the other hand, has pledged to abolish the MTA. That can’t inspire feelings of job security among the executives at the […]

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J B October 16, 2010 - 6:54 am

Perhaps the state government should look into how Tokyo and other cities run their metros. If we could get a profitable subway system that’s well run that would be a boon for everyone- New York would finally get a decent subway system and the upstaters wouldn’t be able to complain about supporting the subway.

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