Tuning in to this afternoon’s State of the State address, you could be forgiven for forgetting that New York depends on the nation’s largest transit system — a system burdened by debt and ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, which is in desperate need of leadership from the governor. Between the inside political jokes and grand pronouncements, Andrew Cuomo barely had time to talk about what makes New York’s economy run: its transit system.
Cuomo did have time to talk about his big symbol of accomplishment, the Tappan Zee Bridge, which was plastered on the cover of the speech’s 312-page agenda. “It is big, it is bold, it is beautiful,” he said of the new Tappan Zee. “We did it in one year, instead of talking about it for ten.” What he doesn’t mention, of course, is that in the process he chucked transit out the window, passing it off to a study committee and dealing a huge setback to transit-oriented growth in the Hudson Valley.
It was nearly an hour into the speech before Cuomo began to talk about rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy, and when he did, he mainly spoke in platitudes about the need to protect the subway and the city’s other underground infrastructure from flooding. “The technology is there. It’s expensive but it’s necessary,” he said.
While his own NYS 2011 Commission has recommended creating a resilient bus rapid transit network to keep New York moving around the clock, including in the wake of disaster, Cuomo didn’t mention anything about that today. His nod to transportation resilience in the speech was that the state must create a fuel reserve to avoid gas shortages.
Although Cuomo said that the regional greenhouse gas emission cap should be lowered — “climate change is real,” he said — the speech didn’t touch on how transit can reduce emissions. But he did manage to promote the idea of a statewide network allowing electric car owners to plug in and recharge.
And at the conclusion of his speech, when Cuomo revisited Sandy rebuilding, he didn’t mention subway fortifications at all. “We can rebuild thousands of miles of roads,” he told the audience.
The governor’s vision for a greener New York makes no connection between transportation, land use, and the environment. He laid out a plan for three “destination resorts and casinos” upstate, so downstate residents and tourists will travel and stimulate the upstate economy. He didn’t even salvage that idea by suggesting that these casinos could be sited in depressed cities and towns in an effort to rebuild those communities.
Cuomo cited the cost of gasoline and auto insurance — a combined $2,600 a year, according to his numbers — when talking about the struggles faced by minimum-wage earners. He never mentioned the cost of a MetroCard, and MTA fare hikes and debt spending were nowhere to be found in Cuomo’s speech or the accompanying 312-page agenda.