As the MTA is facing its worst financial crisis in decades, New York’s politicians have begun to speak out in droves. These comments could serve as a primer in assessing politicians’ attitudes toward transit. For example, we’ve already seen that John Liu, the chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committe, doesn’t get it, but what about a few other big names?
Curbed has Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s reactions to the East River tolling proposal:
“Haven’t we been down this road before? I have said it before and will say it again: East River tolls are discriminatory, impractical, and impose an unfair ‘tax’ on the outer boroughs—especially Brooklyn. Three of the four un-tolled bridges—the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg…Additionally, even with advances in E-ZPass technology, tolls will create even worse traffic backups for communities such as Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, DUMBO, and the ‘Brownstone Belt’ of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill, which already suffer.”
I hate to break it to Marty, but a financially crippled MTA would be far, far worse for Brooklyn than some tolls. In fact, two of the three lines up for service cuts run into Brooklyn too and serve many more people than the bridges on a daily basis. Unsurprisingly, Marty doesn’t get it.
But not everyone is as blind to reality as Markowitz. Richard Brodsky, a Westchester assemblyman who oversees the MTA, gets it, as William Neuman noted in The Times:
Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Democrat from Westchester County who is the chairman of a commission that oversees the authority, said he was worried that the authority’s long-term spending needs would be forgotten in a discussion of its more immediate fiscal woes.
“You look back at the generation of leaders in the ’60s and ’70s and say, ‘How could they let the subway system deteriorate as much as it did?’ ” Mr. Brodsky said. “We are going to be faced with precisely the choices that they faced.” He added, “The real question here is do we repeat those mistakes?”
As Brodsky noted, the region cannot afford to let the MTA slip back into the hell it became in the 1960s and 1970s. That would be far, far worse for our economy that some tolls on the East River. Brodsky also gives me hope that not every politician will have a knee-jerk reaction to inconvenient truths the Ravitch Report will contain next month. We need to look forward for a solution. If that means higher tolls or a congestion fee or higher taxes, then so be it. A New York without a functional MTA with the ability to expand to meet the demands of a 21st Century city would be a bad place indeed.