By a vote of 74-22, the Senate yesterday passed their version of a reauthorization of the transportation bill. You can read all about the vote at Streetsblog and Transportation for America. I wanted to discuss a few key New York-centric aspects of this new measure.
First, the good: New York City stands to benefit tremendously under the Senate version of the bill. As The Post notes, New York State would receive $1.4 billion in transit dollars and $1.7 billion in road money. The bulk of the transit dollars would fund MTA projects, and the commuter tax benefits would be restored to $240 per month. “It’s one of the most important bills for New York that’s going to come this year,” Chuck Schumer, Senior Senator from the Great State of New York, said.
Now the bad: Besides the fact that the House seems intent on enacting a Tea Party-style death by a million cuts on the Transportation Bill and the final version will have to go to conference for a reconciliation, the safety measures are something we should not be quick to embrace. As The Washington Post explains, the Senate, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that the derailment and collision problems through which only the WMATA suffers warrant sweeping federal safety oversight of the nation’s subway systems.
“We have federal safety standards for planes, trains and automobiles. We need them for transit systems like Washington’s Metro,” Maryland’s Sen. Barbara Mikulski said. “I will keep pushing forward on reforming Metro until it’s safe for the people who work on it and the people who ride on it.”
Now, it’s all well and good for the Senate to be concerned with the lone subway system that literally runs through its backyard, but as I said a few weeks ago, federal oversight for subway systems is unnecessary and likely costly. It will carry unfunded federal mandates that lead to detrimental redundancies that just aren’t necessary to operate a fast and efficient rapid transit network. We’ve seen it with the FRA, and there’s no reason to expect otherwise here. If the Senate has a problem with their own Metro, they should address it at home and not by making the rest of us suffer.
Before we get too upset over these developments, though, we must wait for the House. A looming showdown could drastically alter the structure of this bill, but at least the Senate is willing to move forward with a somewhat sensible transportation solution.