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Sander slams pols for heaping blame on MTA

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Former MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander has warned that if politicians keep “running against the MTA,” it could decline into “the state of dysfunction they denounce.”

Sander, in a New York Times op−ed Monday, acknowledged some of the transit agency’s problems, such as crowded subways, outdated signal systems and traffic−engulfed buses.

But he denied and denounced what he called “old and discredited accusations that the [MTA] keeps two sets of books and that the MTA was untrustworthy and corrupt.”

Sander said straphangers “breathed a sigh of relief when the Albany Legislature approved a revenue plan for the MTA.”

“But in the political process that led up to this rescue, damage was inflicted on the MTA’s reputation,” Sander said.

Sander resigned early last month after Gov. David Paterson proclaimed a forthcoming “clean−up and clean−out” of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Sander said of the verbal and written anti−MTA attacks from Albany: “These false charges landed enough sensational headlines to help camouflage the politicians’ own inability to reach a timely agreement on how to finance public transporta­tion.”

Sander admitted there were problems, mentioning crowded subway cars — ridership rose 50 percent this past decade — outdated signal technology that limits the number of trains per hour, decaying subway stations, buses caught in traffic jams and the still−unfinished Second Avenue subway line.

“But longtime New Yorkers who remember the transit system’s sorry state during the 1970s know how much it has improved in 25 years,” Sander said. “Even today, despite a global recession, the agency continues to make progress.”

“Only with genuine support from our elected officials can the next chief executive keep improving the transit system,” Sander said.

“The governor has begun an international search for a new MTA chief executive,” Sander said. “All of us should wish that whoever takes the helm gets the backing of all New York’s elected leaders. As the people who call the shots on MTA financing, they really are the agency’s shadow board of directors.”

“If, on the other hand, politicians continue to run against the MTA, their rhetoric may become self−fulfilling prophecy and the system may devolve into the state of dysfunction they denounce,” Sander said.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

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