I first started this blog nearly two years ago when Democrats, thanks in large part to the efforts of New York’s own Chuck Schumer, won the midterm elections. At the time, it seemed as though the party would deliver an urban-oriented policy with urban investments.
Two years later, my intuitions were correct. The MTA has seen an influx of investment in capital expansion projects from both the federal government and the city. While the federal money will spur on at least the first part of the Second Ave. subway and the city will pay for the 7 line extension to the Hudson Yards, a slow economy has derailed more investment in transit. It was, in 2006, a bittersweet victory then. The promise for support was there; the economic conditions failed to materialize.
Tonight, as we all witnessed a historic investment, those of us trumpeting urban policies, those of us urging for substantial investment in public transit and national infrastructure have a reason to smile. Barack Obama, a very urban-oriented candidate, won because urban voters turned out to support him. His vice president, Joe Biden, is one of the nation’s greatest proponents of its sagging rail system. This could truly be a watershed election for supporters of public transportation and rational infrastructure investment.
Of course, it is right now too early to tell what the future will hold. Our President-elect does not have an easy road ahead of him. America is still embroiled in two overseas wars; the economy is stagnating; the environment isn’t going to fix itself. But as more and more economists have recommended over the last few days, the next president should look to begin an economic recovery program by investing in cities and by investing in infrastructure.
For New York, arguably the center of America’s economy, this means an increased attention to the state of our transit network. This means better and faster transit into and out of the central business district of Manhattan. This could mean more money for the subways, more money for our aging and inadequate river crossings, more money for the commuter rail options and airports that feed our city.
It’s been a rough few months for the MTA. The organization is teetering on the brink of financial collapse. It needs millions of even billions more than it has access to, and it’s about to ram us all with a second fare hike in two years. But tonight, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Perhaps, just perhaps, federal investment in our infrastructure will be that bright light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.