Deep cuts in subway, bus and commuter rail service could come as early as spring, followed by a double-digit rise in fares and tolls in June, transportation officials said on Thursday as they revealed a gloom-and-doom budget that came with a “cry for help” to elected officials to bail the authority out of its financial crisis.
And then today's editorial:
New York City has long had a major problem with infrastructure and this underscores it.
New York wants to be a major world city. It wants to be a center of culture. It wants to build glittering skyscrapers. But it hasn't been willing to invest the money to maintain the infrastructure to support such ambitions. While cities like London, Paris, and Tokyo have aggressively maintained and upgraded their infrastructure to ensure that the water keeps running, trains keep moving, and power keeps humming, New York has merely maintained its infrastructure. But the population is just too large to support.
If more money had been put into upgrades as early as the 1970's in preparation for the inevitable increase in population, this would not be an issue now. But the idea of the absurdly low fares that New Yorkers pay is, well...absurd.
And whenever anyone raises the idea that maybe people are going to have to pay more in order to keep the city running, everyone gets their hackles up over it.
So parts of Queens spend 2 weeks during the summer of 2007 without any power. A steam pipe explodes outside Times Square. Trains arrive infrequently and are jam-packed. Water pressure fluctuates wildly in some parts of the city. Brown-outs are simply part of the summer routine.
This is why I couldn't stand living in New York.
The Times is saying that increased taxes across the board should go to solving the budget deficit. But I see other problems.
First of all, NYC train operators can earn as much as $70,000 a year. This for a job that doesn't even require a high school diploma. And their healthcare is 100% free with no co-pays at all. Even I never get such a good deal, and I'm a doctor. Second, the Union has also demanded that under no circumstances may a train be operated by a single operator. This is for "safety." But we all know that it's for job security. It is by no means challenging to operate a train and open and close the doors. Train drivers in every other city do it. They need to switch to single person train operation. And then, the union actually had the temerity to have a strike in 2005, completely illegally. If there was ever a case for union busting, this one is it.
Second, fares have to go up. A $2.25 fare (they finally went up from $2) that allows you to travel from any point in the city to any other point in the city is simply unsustainable. An $80/month unlimited ride fare is similarly unsustainable. They need to introduce zone fees, first of all, much like there are in just about every other major city (and this would be easy to do, given the natural divisions already separating the boroughs). And they need to increase fares overall. I do worry about the fact that the people living in the outer boroughs tend to be poorer than those in lower Manhattan, but there can be concession fares for low-income riders.
Third, there needs to be a long-term program introduced to maintain and upgrade the entire system. The system is about to get its first new line in over 60 years and that new line has no express tracks (and thus will be unable to expand service as demand grows), skips over a few other lines without an interchange, and doesn't cross the city above the Park. This new Second Avenue Subway needs to be improved to include these changes NOW so that it isn't more costly to build them LATER. And furthermore, the rest of the lines need a real and true upgrade to their stations (which are disgusting), signalling systems, and passenger information systems. And then there needs to be a long-term program for keeping these systems maintained and regularly upgraded to allow such features as CBTC (Control by Telecommunication and Computer-Based Train Control). So far, such upgrades have been applied only to the L train and they were poorly executed. Oh, and they need to hire new contracting companies who aren't incompetent, who don't leave "newly renovated" stations covered in old chewing gum spots, and who can repaint a metal pillar so that it has a smooth coat.
I'll get bashed as a New York hater, I'm sure. But if there was ever proof that the city is in serious trouble, this is it. And it's time for New York to decide. Does it want to continue being a major world city? Or does it want to begin a slow, long decline in the direction that Detroit took, but for completely different reasons?