Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a sweeping overhaul of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including common-sense practical programs for realistic renovations of older and underused resources that will improve ridership throughout the city. His programs to expand the CityTicket program to include Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad stations so Queens and Bronx riders pay reduced fares will benefit those borough residents shows he has an eye for moving the MTA toward a unified pay system.
Other portions of the Bloomberg plan include reopening the Staten Island North Shore Railway, countdown clocks on subway routes and pilot light rail and streetcar services in northern Brooklyn and western Queens waterfront neighborhoods. The proposal also deals with the bus and toll portions of the MTA’s reach by expanding Bus Rapid Transit to reduce travel time on routes in congested areas; providing free cross-town buses, commuter vans, improvements to the ParaTransit services to provide better transportation for handicapped and elderly riders; and using tracking technology and reductions during slower periods and increased evening service to ease congestion, overcrowding and under-use.
The mayor also suggested gateless tolls at crossings, expanded ferry systems and even HOV improvements and expansions. In addition to these functional improvements, Bloomberg correctly posited the need for a unified police presence overseeing the safety and security of the MTA system and improved public-private partnerships to maintain and improve stations and lines.
The most significant aspect of his plan revolves around an overhaul of the MTA’s bureaucracy. It is here I believe the mayor must reach further and force Albany to open the books on the MTA and make it a more transparent authority.
While I salute the mayor for his vision and organized plan to cut the bloated bureaucracy and restore services that are cost-effective and responsible, his plan to merge overlapping administrative functions and to eliminate bureaucratic redundancy — something that could be done to the general city government — is just the beginning. The MTA should have its books comprehensively audited and a thorough cost-cutting analysis should be done top to bottom.
The MTA was originally formed some 30 years ago. Albany chartered it to be a cost-savings authority to make the rapid transit system more efficient and to eliminate redundancy and duplicative costs. It has devolved into quite the opposite: inefficient, bloated and unresponsive. If the mayor is to succeed with a long-term solution to the transit crisis, it will require a complete makeover of the MTA and the people will need to believe they can trust their money is being spent wisely.
The rapid transit system must be clean, efficient, on-time and cost-effective. Anything less simply punts the problem to the future. We cannot afford another overrun and a Hudson River two-step from Albany. Open the books, audit the budget and set the MTA right-side up now, since we are likely starting from near scratch.
If anyone can force Albany to listen, it is Bloomberg. It is a fight worth taking on if the mayor is serious about fixing the MTA. Someone has to be.
©2009 Community News Group
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