Home View from Underground Link: A Slate Q-and-A on the state of NYC transit

Link: A Slate Q-and-A on the state of NYC transit

by Benjamin Kabak

While I haven’t had an opportunity to post here in a few weeks, the transit news has been rolling non-stop. From Penn Station to the subway’s aging signal system, we’re witnessing the acceleration of the slow-motion collapse of New York City’s transit infrastructure, and Gov. Cuomo is taking responsibility for his MTA only in fits and starts. There are no plans to ramp up the pace of work required to ensure the system doesn’t backslide any further, and that is a topic I hope to explore more in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, as train service starts to sag and reliability declines, everyone is wondering how much can New York City, an economic center of the country, withstand before the problem becomes a national one. I believe we may already be there even if our leaders won’t, don’t or can’t take responsibility for any of their actions. It’s a lazy cliche to say only time will tell, but for now, only time will tell.

For more insight into the current state of things, I spoke with Slate’s Isaac Chotiner last week, and his Q-and-A with yours truly ran today in the online mag. We discussed the issues writ large of declining service reliability; we pointed some fingers at Albany; and we pondered whether the feds, not particularly sympathetic to urban life these days, could be depended upon for a rescue as they have been in the past.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt and my thought for one politically challenging but perhaps necessary approach to the S-L-O-W pace of signal upgrades. Mosey on over to Slate for a full read, and I promise I’ll have more here soon.

If you were governor, what could you do right now to make the situation better?

Say to people, “We know your subway system is bad, we know your train system is bad. To really fix it we have to take lines out of service for extended periods of time.” We don’t know what those periods of time are because no one at the MTA has really explored the issue yet. But if you can accomplish a signal replacement in a year without a train service, it might be better to do that than to knock out service over seven or eight years and have this uncertainty.

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Spendmor Wastemor June 20, 2017 - 11:13 am

Spendmore would say:

“Afflicted by a fit of honesty from which I expect to soon recover, I have requested that the Federal government abstain from bailing out NYC transit until after it has delivered full value for the billions we’ve taken in Federal grants.
By the way, your Mayor and I have a helicopter to get around, and because we’re Progressive champions of you little people we need to be in the sky above you to cast our benevolent eyes toward your huddled misery. Do consider purchasing a bicycle and several pairs of walking shoes.

This is the kleptocracy you voted for, this is the kleptocracy you get. “

George June 20, 2017 - 6:55 pm

Nothing’s going to change until a huge loss of life.

That is how it has always been.

That is how it will always be.

Spendmor Wastemor June 21, 2017 - 10:39 am

There already is a huge loss of life, but it’s hours per person times thousands and hundreds of thousands, instead of a few individuals losing all of their time at once.
Sclerotic slowness plus delays consume hundreds of life-times worth of hours every year, but since it’s just draining a bite of life-time from each passenger with no bodies on stretchers, it doesn’t have emotional impact.

AMH June 21, 2017 - 2:42 pm

This article is pretty eye-opening. I had no idea that there was a long-term effort to slow down trains permanently, reducing capacity.


Brooklynite June 22, 2017 - 7:08 am

That article is pretty spot-on.

Brooklynite June 22, 2017 - 7:13 am

I fundamentally disagree with the notion that the first step in fixing the crisis should be giving the MTA more maintenance money or time. As we know from several IG reports and common sense, the current maintenance practices are quite inefficient. Track workers often start actually working several hours after a GO begins, obviously reducing productivity, and work rules require much more staffing than is actually necessary to complete the work.

Before giving the MTA more resources for maintenance, let’s be sure that they are spending what they have effectively. Instead of throwing good money after bad, or causing significant weekday disruption to allow work that could be done on the weekends or nights, we must ensure proper use of the time and money already spent.

Jedman67 June 27, 2017 - 11:38 am

A full audit of the MTA expenditures, tracking how every dollar is spent, as well as an audit of current safety regulations and union staffing requirements is required. This should probably be run by a federal inspector.

John July 14, 2017 - 2:08 am

I think the governor is quite pressured right now because of that issue. I think that the people should not cooperate while he’s looking for solutions since this issue is currently not common.


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