Straphangers’ Russianoff Will be Named to Spitzer Team

russianoff.jpgStreetsblog has learned that Gene Russianoff, executive director of the Straphangers Campaign, will be named as a member of Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer’s transition team transportation committee. The announcement is likely to be made tomorrow. Russianoff says, "No comment." Unlike yesterday’s inaccurate tip about the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability this item seems to be solid.

Russianoff generated one of the nicer soundbites to come out of yesterday’s Citywide Coalition for Traffic Relief rally in this interview with Stan Brooks of 1010 WINS. You can listen to it online but here’s the gist of it:

Traffic is really an urban health issue. It’s about our lungs, our ears, our sensibilities walking down the street and this is a mayor who has really done a lot to make the city healthier. There’s a long way to go and a key way [to make the city healthier] is to tame traffic. This is a walking city, a beautiful city and a city that gives far too much priority to cars driven by individuals and not enough to people on bikes, in buses or pedestrians.

Brooks summarizes: "He says the Mayor has tackled cigarettes and transfats and cigarettes, why not go after traffic?"

  • Glad to here it. I couldn’t think of a better advocate for mass transit commuters, alternative transportation and people who want a livable city!

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    Is Lee Sander the head of that transition team? Who else is on it? Are there any financial people involved that know how to organize debt?

  • Um…that’s glad to “hear” it…

  • Muruch

    As to Russianoff – it’s easy to be a gadfly who isn’t accountable to anybody but a gaggle of reporters for the next pithy quote. If he actually had to run a transit operation he might have a sense of the complexity of it and mightn’t be so glib and quick on the attack. As someone who has actually been part of the effort of getting buses on the road, I say this to the Straphangers and other armchair critics: “Make service, not soundbites.”

  • someguy

    Muruch, there’s always going to be a role for activists and gadflies, just as much as there will always be a role for the people who actually make things run. Without interested third parties, there would be no checks on the quality, efficiency and fairness of government policy and actions. Russianoff does a superb job being reasonable, rational as well as pithy.

  • Pete Sikora

    Ditto someguy… Gene Russianoff is one of the reasons the subways aren’t the mess they once were – and could become again without people like him. Muruch, you might not have a budget to put those buses on the road without the straphangers campaign. Save your venom for a better target.

  • Clarence

    Russianoff is damn hero in this town! Can’t count how many times I have seen him on the subway system.

  • JK

    The transition team’s job is to hire the mgmt team not to make policy or run the show. Solving the money problem at the MTA (and SDOT for that matter) is a matter of political will, not financial wizardry. The wizards have already figured out how to bond every penny of income — and that’s the problem. The calculating to be done now is what new funding sources offer the biggest money bang for the political buck. Thruway privatization looks appetizing.

  • someguy

    Privatization might help, but ultimately what’s needed is true cost pricing of road use – something like what Oregon is studying and what the UK is planning to implement. Mileage-, distance-, and pollution-based tolling via GPS or some other method. Ultimately that’s the most efficient and fare way to fund transportation use, for both transit and roads.

  • Someone who knows

    “Is Lee Sander the head of that transition team?”

    Now that is a scary thought, particularly given:

    “The transition team’s job is to hire the mgmt team not to make policy or run the show.”

    Ask anybody at City DOT about the management team Lee picked. He has the worst judgement about competence and integrity I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some doozies. Lee’s a nice guy, and not a bad theory/policy schmoozer, but when he actually has to do something he’s beyond hopelessly inept.

  • JK

    There is a lot of stuff NY could and should be doing. With our land use and transit mix, we could be showing the world how to do things right. But we have a legislature(which remains largely unchanged) that has not proven receptive to innovation in transportation or other policy realms.

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    Thruway privtization? Private companies, construction, design, system, consulting are all over the MTA and the Thruway Authority padding their own payroll with moral hazard. Just what we don’t need is more of it.

    Gene has done great work protecting and advancing the interest of the riders. The two fare zones would not have ended without the political space he and Pataki created for each other in a magic moment of good policy a few years back.

    The straphangers do have a one note song with regard to fare policy (lower) that keeps them rolling along with the support of the riders. A more modern approach with regards to fares, taken by NJT and other agencies in the area, would allow modest fare increases on a regular basis that better allows the agencies to budget. Rather than fighting off all fare increases until the system is starving itself then having a huge, desperate fare increase.

    Pataki and Giuliani cuts in tax support exaccerbated that problem. Now Lee (is in a Cheney position to pick himself as leader?) or whoever takes over the operation for Spitzer will have to do some heavy financial lifting.

  • someguy

    Macchiavelli, there is a difference between private companies contracting specific tasks for government-operated facilities and private companies operating the facilities themselves. In the former case (what we have now), the government agencies running facilities have little direct incentive to run as efficiently as possible, and the contractors doing work for them have no incentive for the greater good of the system either – just to get paid for each individual project (or, as you put it, pad their own payroll with moral hazard). On the other hand, in a case of private operation of public infrastructure, the operating company has every incentive to make the finances work, to create a system that people want to use, to balance costs and benefits (rather than their getting lost in an overall government budget where users have no price signal in their choices).

    I am no hardcore neo-liberal, but I think private-public partnerships deserve a try here – the public sector isn’t doing such a hot job with our transportation system right now.


Russianoff and Schneiderman Map the MTA’s Road to ‘Ruin’

In today’s Daily News, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign and State Senator Eric Schneiderman examine how the MTA ended up the most debt-ridden transit system in the United States, and urge state leaders to chart a new course. The governor must prevent next year’s state budget from being a carbon copy of the budgets […]

Gene Russianoff on the MTA’s $17.5 Billion Hole

Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, talks to Streetsblog about the future of transit funding without congestion pricing. Direct quotes are in quotation marks. Streetsblog: Without pricing, how will the MTA get funded? Russianoff: They currently have a proposed $29.5B capital plan. The vast majority is for stuff that absolutely has to be […]

Help Wanted at DOT: Creative Thinkers Encouraged to Apply

Chairman of the City Council Transportation Committee, John C. Liu, praised outgoing DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall and called for an innovative thinker as her successor. You’ve already weighed in on what you’d like to see in the next DOT commissioner. Now members of the City Council and Transportation Alternatives have weighed in too, with a press conference […]

Meet Cuomo’s Point Man on the MTA: Jim Malatras

The Cuomo Administration’s transportation policy is still taking shape, but here’s a name to watch: Jim Malatras. As Cuomo’s new deputy secretary for policy management, Malatras will be a top advisor on all major transportation decisions, including how transit riders fare in the upcoming budget. “The Cuomo administration’s point man on MTA policy issues is […]

What Will It Take to Enact the Sandy Commission’s Transportation Proposals?

Governor Cuomo’s post-Sandy infrastructure commission unveiled its recommendations [PDF] last week, and while it focused heavily on hardening the city’s transportation network against future storms, it also offered glimpses of how infrastructure could be more resilient in the wake of disaster, with Bus Rapid Transit playing a prominent role. In addition to BRT, the report from the […]