MTA Big: Transit Is An “Inconvenience” Fit for “Common People”

amd_mack.jpgIn another PR coup for the MTA, board members yesterday asserted their worthiness for free toll and transit passes, a perk deemed illegal by State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and unseemly by virtually everyone who isn’t a present or former board member. Vice Chair David Mack (pictured), a well-to-do Long Island developer, puts it in perspective for us:

"We’re invaluable," Mr. Mack said, speaking to reporters during a break between meetings of two board committees that he heads, one on the Long Island Rail Road and Long Island Bus and the other on the authority’s bridges and tunnels.

"If you saw something and called it in, it goes right there," he added, as he put his foot on top of a wastebasket. "When the normal public calls it in, you know what happens with the bureaucracy, they don’t get the response that a board member would get."

But Mr. Mack, a Long Island resident who says he typically rides the railroad 5 to 10 times a year, said that if he had to pay, he might change his habits.

"Why should I ride and inconvenience myself when I can ride in a car?" he said.

Similarly, he said, without free E-ZPasses, some board members might use the city’s free bridges and avoid the authority’s tolled bridges and tunnels.

Mr. Mack also questioned Mr. Cuomo’s motives on the issue.

"What he’s trying to do was strictly a soap box, where it looks good to the common people," Mr. Mack said.

As the board heads for a potential split vote — if not a conflict with the state — Mack’s enlightening comments, in addition to grabbing headlines, have prompted a call from the City Council for him to explain himself or else step down from the board.

Council Member Eric Gioia, of Queens, issued this statement in a press release today:

"Vice Chairman Mack should either clarify his statement or resign. With sentiment like that it is no wonder that the MTA is in such dire straits. His comments represent an absolute disdain for the very entity which serves millions of hardworking New Yorker every day who don’t have a choice to just ‘take their car.’ This sense of entitlement and contemptuous thinking is what leads New Yorkers to rightly ask who is on their side at MTA headquarters." 

Photo: New York Daily News

  • Quickly! We must do all we can to keep Mr. Mack on the MTA those 5-10 times a year! It is the only thing we can do to improve our transit services!

  • I love it – ordinary people not only have to pay for their rides, but their complaints are largely ignored by the bureaucracy. It takes someone who sits on the board and uses the train 5-10 times a year to call in a complaint.

    Ok, how many complaints has he ever called in?

    How would he ever know to complain about any type of payment system?

    However, he sounds like a real advocate for the Kheel plan with this “Why should I ride and inconvenience myself when I can ride in a car?” attitude…

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    Utterly tone deaf fool.

  • william

    Blame George Pataki. Mack’s a GOP appointee. Add it to Pataki’s legacy of underfinancing the MTA.

  • Notice also that he said “ride in a car” — not “DRIVE a car.” There’s a pretty big difference between the two.

    Not to knock someone wealthy enough to have a car and driver. (After, the wealthy are people too!) But man alive — if he can afford a car a driver, he can afford EZPass and a fare card! I, uh, think the latter are a lot cheaper.

  • I hope folks noticed that Mack has 6 free E-Z passes that he claims not even to use–I’ll bet he’s given them to family members or employees:

    “An inventory in May showed that Mr. Mack, 66, had six free E-ZPass tags, but he said on Wednesday that he now uses regular tags of the paid variety.”

    Should be “E-Z” enough to trace who is using these free passes.

  • The best part — and I wrote this up on SAS — is that he says he’s in touch with transit riders because he rides LIRR five to ten times a year. Most commuters ride LIRR ten times a week. Is the MTA Board really this clueless?

  • The MTA is a state agency. Cluelessness is the norm.

  • Hmmm. The automatic date function on my computer must be malfunctioning. It claims the date is June 19th, but after reading this post, I’m certain it must be April 1st.

  • Larry Littlefield

    How long has this guy been on the Board. And how much debt has he voted to in that time?

    If ongoing replacment ceases and maintenance is once again deferred, I doubt he will be much affected.

  • Moser

    We should thank him for his “whacky rant.”

    The guy is a pig but he reflects what is a major strand of elite opinion, and that is what really matters around this town/region and gets reflected down into government agencies. Why sweat the quality of public transit or the fare when the common people ride it because they have no other choice.

  • My god, everywhere we turn, there are self-serving, out-of-touch political hacks intent on doing nothing but increasing their own wealth and privileges! They’re certainly not interested in actually benefiting the people who live and work in their jurisdictions.

    The inmates are running the asylum, truly.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The guy is a pig but he reflects what is a major strand of elite opinion.”

    We’ve talked about the corporate “Black Car” elite and the political “placard” elite. The MTA Board appears to be the point of intersection.

  • Spud Spudly

    When I first read this story this morning on the train I thought that he must have been talking somewhere he shouldn’t have and was overheard by reporters. But he was actually talking to the reporters themselves???? What an idiot!

  • Kurt

    What a tool bag.

  • Last year I found that at least one retired DP&R official received free citywide parking placards allowing him to park his two Connecticut-plated private cars in the middle of Central Park 24/7. TA did a great job of pursuing the issue and I never see those cars in the Park anymore. I’m beginning to suspect that many, or even most most city and state agencies provide unconscionable lifetime perks to their administrators.

  • fdr

    From the MTA web site: Mack was appointed in 1993. His term expires June 30, 2009. (As of today, we can assume Paterson is looking for a successor.) He chairs the Long Island Rail Road/Long Island Bus committee (which is probably why he even bothers to ride the LIRR 5-10 times a year).
    http://www.mta.info/mta/leadership/mack.htm

  • Sam

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. LONG ISLAND IS NOT PART OF NEW YORK CITY! (this asshole makes me so happy my parents never moved to any kind of suburb)

  • Except Brooklyn and Queens, of course

  • Sam

    A mere geographic technicality.

  • Spud Spudly

    As an aside, the whole issue of free passes for MTA Board members is a silly emotional issue, a tempest in a teapot cooked up by the tabloids to rile people up. In the grand scheme of things it makes no difference to anything. He’s right about Cuomo.

    But this d-bag’s attitude toward the general riding public is a different story. It does matter and is likely indicative of a systemic problem.

  • Agreed, Spud. In fact I hesitated to write this up because it seems like such a distraction from the issue of MTA funding. But as you and Moser point out, this guy’s attitude is telling. That’s the story here.

  • bernardo

    Why so much hatred? He can’t be that bad.

    After all, he and his wife Sondra have an eponymously dubbed foundation which supports various charitable projects, including the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV). At the most recent benefit for NYLCV, their foundation donated $25,000 to this environmental group and was recognized as as a “host” — http://nylcv.org/Spring_Gala_Sponsors_2008 . (See http://www.thedatabank.com/dpg/255/donate.asp?formid=nylcvmeeting&c=7698521 for the invite with the donation categories.)

  • steely

    Is this guy really this stupid? Even if you think these things, for godsake don’t say them outloud to a report.

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