As Michael Bloomberg campaigned for a third term as mayor, the MTA became his public whipping boy. He wanted to offer free crosstown buses and improvements to subway service in general. His “Plan to Reform Mass Transit” dominated headlines in August and airwaves in September.
Now that Bloomberg has secured his third term, though, he is humming a slightly different tune. The Mayor says he won’t increase city contributions to the MTA and seemed to dodge questions about his mass transit plan. How utterly disappointing and yet oh-so-predictable. Michael Grynbaum of The Times has more:
On Thursday, however, in his first public appearance with Jay H. Walder, the authority’s new chairman, Mr. Bloomberg’s fiery words had been replaced by something less aggressive: a plea for patience. Asked about a much-discussed proposal to make crosstown buses available to riders at no cost — a pledge repeated in bold print on thousands of his campaign mailers and pamphlets — the mayor appeared to retreat from his plan. “We have not talked about that one yet,” he began, noting that new technology, like computerized fare cards that could speed up boarding times, “might be able to accomplish part of that.”
“I thought it was a good idea, although, the real issue there, there’s two things we’re trying to do: one is to make it easier for people to go back and forth, but two is also to stop the delays from getting on and off the buses,” the mayor said. “That’s another one of these things down the road. I think there’s a whole bunch of things that we laid out that we can explore together.”
The mayor then quickly moved on to the next question.
An aide to the mayor said later that it would be impossible for Mr. Bloomberg to announce progress on every initiative so soon after the election. “We still believe in the proposal,” the aide said. “Are we guaranteeing everything is going to happen? No, we don’t control the M.T.A.”
Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg controls only 4 of 14 votes on the authority’s board. And he said on Thursday that he did not plan to increase the city’s contribution to the authority’s operating budget.
As Grynbaum notes, the City and the MTA announce not a partnership but the opportunity to explore a potential partnership. The Mayor and Walder announced a plan to study 311 integration with the MTA. The press release hedged its bets, though, in stating that the two parties “agreed to work together to see if the 311 could be the right fit for the MTA’s customer service needs.”
“We pledged to build a stronger relationship between the City and the MTA, so we can build the modern and efficient mass transit system New York City deserves,” Bloomberg said. “Today, we take the first step by agreeing to work toward utilizing the power of 311 to make life a little easier for the 8.5 million people who take mass transit every day in the city. If we can have one number to call to receive subway and bus information, report problems or get directions, it would bring the same great service that New Yorkers have gotten from City government since 2003 to the MTA.”
Agreeing to explore whether or not two sides can work together is a far cry from delivering actual results. As Bloomberg heads into a third term with a whole slew of campaign promises in hand, he should deliver. He owes it to us, and he owes it to the MTA.