Later today, New York City Council membrs Joseph Addabbo, right, and John Liu will unveil their latest anti-fare hike effort. As Liu has tried to do, unsuccessfully, in the past, the two hope that their group — Fight the Hike 08 — will succeed in convincing the MTA to avert a fare hike next year.
As part of this campaign, Addabbo penned an extensive piece in today’s Daily News that lays out the campaign’s approach. Ideally, their Website — as of this writing, just a Drupal instruction page — will feature more on how they hope to accomplish their goals. For now, we have just the Addabbo piece, and while on principle I believe their efforts to be noble, I feel that Addabbo and Liu are a bit misguided in their rhetoric.
The cost of living is on the rise, and the state is experiencing financial difficulty, which usually jeopardizes jobs and income. The first answer to a budget deficit cannot always be to increase the cost of living for middle class people, especially without a serious improvement in service and facilities. Just recently, a survey of 50 stations by the New York City Transit Riders Council revealed that riders complained overwhelmingly about the state of disrepair of the city’s subway stations, many of which suffer from water damage, lack of proper signage and peeling paint.
New York City Transit even acknowledged the problem by proposing to include $71 million in their Capital Plan to address problem areas incrementally. Since the Bloomberg administration has already signaled that the city will not balance the MTA’s bottom line, it’s up to the state to prioritize spending in these tough fiscal times and focus funding where it is most needed, and where it’ll do the most good.
We in government need to make high quality, low cost public transportation a priority and send a message to the MTA that we expect to get what we pay for. As legislators return to Albany this week to reassess the budget, I urge them to not only act judiciously, but on behalf of middle class interests. Raising the fare should be a last resort, and I don’t believe we’re at that point.
I appreciate Addabbo’s efforts, but the middle class rhetoric is simply a councilmember’s efforts at pandering hidden in class conflict. Six months ago, Addabbo was an opponent of a congestion pricing on the grounds that the pricing plan would negatively impact the middle class in Queens who supposedly lived too far away from mass transit. The only problem with Addabbo’s argument is that those members of Queens who live too far away from mass transit and must rely on their cars aren’t really a part of the middle class. They’re a bit of the upper class who can afford congestion pricing and choose to live in non-transit friendly areas of New York City.
Again, Addabbo is relying on class rhetoric, and while his argument is more valid when it applies to the transit system, he can’t have his cake and eat it too. If Addabbo is serious about funding transit, then congestion pricing will have to a part of the equation. Raising the fare should be a last resort, but with the city and state eschewing their MTA responsibilities and the economy worsening by the day, the MTA has not choice but to turn to this last resort.
Until our politicians are willing to sacrifice something — whether it be free roads or higher taxes or something else out of the box entirely — the MTA will continue to rely on fare hikes for more funding. It seems to be the only resort these days.