During E-ZPass-gate three weeks ago, shortly before seeing their free perks disappear, the ever-generous MTA Board vowed to fight to the death for their E-ZPasses and the various sundry perks these men and women, some of the richest in the city, enjoy.
Well, it’s good to see that the Board is staying true to its word, for once. They won’t give us our promised service upgrades, but they will battle tooth and nail for some free rides. Now, while I’d usually just post this story as an aside, a few choice quotes were too good to ignore.
In The Times today, William Neuman reports that the MTA Board is divided over the perks issue. The responsible board members want to eliminate the perks; the usually self-important folks want to keep them around. The pro-perks faction is led by David S. Mack, a very rich man, and the MTA’s Vice Chair and chair of a few Long Island-focused committees.
And what did Mr. Mack have to say? Take a look:
Mr. Mack said that it was important for board members to be familiar with the transportation system they oversaw and that free travel passes encouraged that. In their trips through the system, board members frequently notice problems that can be corrected swiftly with a phone call, he said.
“We’re invaluable,” Mr. Mack said…“If you saw something and called it in, it goes right there,” he added, as he put his foot on top of a wastebasket. “When the normal public calls it in, you know what happens with the bureaucracy, they don’t get the response that a board member would get.”
Now, that sounds positively altruistic from Mack. He rides the trains! He sees something, says something and results happen. You would think, then, that Mr. Mack is a regular rider on his trains. Not quite, reports Neuman:
But Mr. Mack, a Long Island resident who says he typically rides the railroad 5 to 10 times a year, said that if he had to pay, he might change his habits.
“Why should I ride and inconvenience myself when I can ride in a car?” he said.
No, you’re not reading this incorrectly. David S. Mack, a man so rich that he has a sports complex at Hofstra with his name on it, is complaining about having to pay to ride the rails five to ten times a year. A YEAR! I ride the subways ten times in a normal four-day period. Cry me a river, David.
With a few anonymous board members noting that no one on the board actually needs those free passes, I have to wonder just how indicative Mack is of the general state of the MTA Board. I know that Dale Hemmerdinger and Elliot Sander know what they’re doing, but does anyone else? Or is the Board populated with people as out of touch with the transportation network and the riding habits of the people who rely on it day in and day out as Mack is? No wonder the MTA is a huge a financial bind right now.
Update 12:10 p.m.: Eric Gioia — yes, that Eric Gioia — has released a statement about this debacle:
“Vice Chairman Mack should either clarify his statement or resign. With sentiment like that it is no wonder that the MTA is in such dire straits. His comments represent an absolute disdain for the very entity which serves millions of hardworking New Yorker every day who don’t have a choice to just ‘take their car.’ This sense of entitlement and contemptuous thinking is what leads New Yorkers to rightly ask who is on their side at MTA headquarters.”
Gioia is spot-on right in this matter. At least someone is trying to hold this MTA Board accountable.