Home Public Transit Policy A new age for transit investment

A new age for transit investment

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

You may also like


Judge November 5, 2008 - 9:00 am

One can hope that despite the (immense) problems we face, transit issues will receive some real attention.
My congratulations to President-elect Obama!

Kid Twist November 5, 2008 - 9:38 am

Congratulations to the president-elect.

Let’s hope he understands that there’s a difference between “investing” wisely and merely shoving more money down an empty hole.

Fact is, the revival of New York and its transit system took place in the years AFTER cities stopped going hat-in-hand to Washington, asking to be treated like sickly vassals.

Marc Shepherd November 5, 2008 - 9:48 am

The impact of Obama–Biden is likely to be at the margins. They are sure to be far more transit-friendly than the Bush administration, but given the cavernous budget deficit, there are limits on what they can realistically do.

JebO November 5, 2008 - 4:27 pm

More important than anything happening at the Federal level is the fact that the Democrats have taken over the New York State Senate.

Josh November 5, 2008 - 5:30 pm

Yeah, the total Democratic party control of state government is a huge change. At the same time however, things in the Executive Agencies are kind of nuts with the wild rumors, pessimism and borderline crazy budget cutting measures.

In my office, they’re taking away the fluorescent tubes from every other light fixture. Our office has been told we can’t buy any more paper (seeing as my floor alone probably uses a case of paper a day, I don’t know how long we’ll be able to hold out). I can’t send out project specifications manuals to be printed without 3 forms of approval, but I can’t get those approvals without having printed copies.

I do have a solution though. Maybe the state should stop borrowing so much money from the rich Wall Street folks (at interest) and instead appropriate through traditional means, like maybe taxes. NY’s rich pay a significantly smaller share then they used to and seeing as how their profits are generated by all of us workig people, who can’t get to work without this infrastructure, maybe its in the best interest of their profits to shell out a little more.

If the MTA and the state as a whole had to borrow less, then more of the current revenue would go towards construction and services, because it wouldn’t be paying useless interest.

Larry Littlefield November 6, 2008 - 11:12 am

It might help Chicago, but not New York.

“If the MTA and the state as a whole had to borrow less, then more of the current revenue would go towards construction and services, because it wouldn’t be paying useless interest.”

Too late. All the money people are willing to lend has already been borrowed, and all the taxes will be going to debts and pensions. Unless bankruptcy is declared to force the politically rich, with their rich pensions after short careers, and the financially risk, with their tax-free investment, to share the sacrifice.

Transportation News Roundup - dev.tlcminnesota March 6, 2015 - 11:39 am

[…] A new age for transit investment (Second Avenue Sagas) […]


Leave a Comment