Today’s Headlines

  • Reid’s Paltry Energy Bill Includes Billions in Automotive Subsidies, Zero for Transit (TNR)
  • Fare Hike 2011 (and 2013): MTA Will Lay Out the Whole Package Today (News, NYT, NY1)
  • Cuomo and Lazio Tell NYC Suburbs the MTA Payroll Tax Is Fair Game (MTR)
  • San Juan Mayor Unveils Ambitious Street Reclamation Plan (Planetizen)
  • Appeals Court Judge: NYC Can’t Create Incentives for Hybrid Cabs (City Room)
  • Igor Oberman Calls Off Kruger Challenge, Says He’ll Be Back (Politicker)
  • Party Chair Dinowitz Won’t Force Espada Out of Dem Primary (News)
  • Commuter Van Service Is Coming to the Defunct B71 Route (Bklyn Paper)
  • Overnight Curbside Parking in Manhattan a Bigger Steal Than Ever (TRD)
  • SAS Tunnel Boring "Plagued By a Lot of Technical Problems" (News)
  • Arena Construction Will Put Flatbush Ave on a Road Diet (Bklyn Paper)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Larry Littlefield

    RE: Private vans replace the bus.

    “The government should be providing essential services that don’t necessarily make a profit.” he said.

    But it was decided to have all the money sucked out of it, leaving money for pensions, debt service and seniors instead.

    “The government and this administration seems to be keen on privatizing all the services that [they] used to provide.”

    This is exactly the kind of “privitization” I predicted two years ago, once the 25/55 teacher pension deal finally opened my eyes to the inevitable future.

    See:

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/education_in_an_era_of_institutional_collapse.html

    “Once this is accepted as inevitable, because the people who benefit from current trends and conditions have unchecked power and no conscience, the question is ‘what will life in New York City be like twenty years from now.’ What will it be like for your children if they stay here? I’ve written about transportation — how they’d better learn to get around by bike and telecommute because the bus system will melt away through a series of budget crises, the subway system will become increasingly unreliable due to disinvestment (with entire lines shut down for years when a critical component fails until the money is scrounged for a temporary fix), driving expensive, parking impossible, and the only other choice illegal but tolerated uninsured private vans operated by drivers of questionable ability. This post is about education — I’ll get to health care later.”

    “I have described the future of public services and benefits as “privatization” and “placardization.” By placardization, I mean that to the extent that public sector has anything worthwhile to offer, it will not be able to afford to offer it universally, and it will be allocated instead to insiders and those with connections by a variety of means. The way scarce parking is allocated to those with the connections to get placards, legal and illegal.”

    “By ‘privatization’ I do not mean that the government will provide universal, equal benefits by hiring private contractors rather than public employees, as it does in the Medicare program or under a school voucher program. I mean that those who have the resources to provide what were once public services for themselves will be permitted to do so (as long as they are grateful for that permission), while those who lack such resources will be left to do without. In other words, we’re heading for a pre-Progressive era level of public services and benefits, at a Swedish tax rate (because those who matter have received Swedish-plus benefits while paying Reaganite taxes or less).”

  • Cuomo and Lazio are right: Ditch the payroll tax. Now that the state is raiding it, it no longer entirely serves its original function of funding the MTA. It needs to be replaced either by general state tax revenue (MTA is a state agency, after all) or by new dedicated taxes in a lockbox.

  • Re: Second Ave Subway – I don’t understand how the MTA is supposed to satisfy people who want their capital projects to be amazing, fast and cheap. This isn’t some failure of government, this is the reality. Nobody wants to pay for the MTA to use the finest materials and consultants in the world but they still demand world class results. I’m not saying the project is free of problems or doesn’t suffer from a lack of quality oversight, but it’s lunacy to be pillorying the MTA for not doing a better job when everyone wants to keep costs at the lowest point possible. Maybe the MTA is failing on all three metrics and the project is a boondoggle, but we should be figuring out why that keeps happening rather than constantly piling on the agency because they can’t do the impossible.

    Also, I’ll bet $$$ that traffic on Flatbush Avenue is no worse six months from today than it is right now. How come when people write about traffic they assume everyone is a robot and will just drive the same route forever regardless of road conditions?

  • JamesR

    The overwhelming level of cynicism on display in the comments on the SAS tunnel is so depressing that it makes me want to just pack up and move to greener pastures. This is a project that is badly, badly needed, yet the commenters still have to take a piss on it and declare it ‘government waste’. The sheer negativity just boggles the mind.

  • Bolwerk

    I’m not saying the project is free of problems or doesn’t suffer from a lack of quality oversight, but it’s lunacy to be pillorying the MTA for not doing a better job when everyone wants to keep costs at the lowest point possible.

    $2B/mile is hardly the lowest costs possible. The costs should probably be a fraction of what they are, going by European and Japanese standards.

  • Re: Fare Hike 2011

    “But the heaviest burden may be placed on the third of subway passengers who use 30-day passes. This group will end up with one of two evils: spending $99 for a monthly pass that would be limited to 90 rides or paying $104 for an unlimited pass. Officials said that they would solicit feedback from the public before making a decision.”

    $104–let’s keep unlimited passes unlimited. In fact, I would be happy to pay more than that if it would restore the transit service cuts.

  • Larry Littlefield, how I hate your doomsday “privatization” and “placardization” scenario! And yet, I fear that you are a Cassandra who speaks truths that larger society prefers not to believe. The evidence certainly points towards your conclusions, and I find your words chilling.

  • The sad thing is that if SAS cost the same as comparable lines in peer cities, it would be a very high-performing line. At the normal Continental European or Japanese cost, Phase 1 would be about $750 million; with a ridership projection of 100,000/weekday, the cost per rider would be $7,500, which is low by mature first-world subway standards. Instead, the budget for Phase 1 is $5 billion, blowing the cost to $50,000/rider, which is possibly the highest in the world.

  • Bolwerk

    Indeed. I don’t mean to “take a piss” on the project, but the high costs seem unjustifiable to me – and seriously should be investigated by so-called journalists.

  • Obviously something is broken in the way the MTA handles construction projects. A few months ago I noticed that three guys were priming(but not painting) the ceiling at the Borough Hall 4/5 platform. The ceiling is badly peeling so I was glad to see some work getting done. Of course they were there for two days and primed about 300 Sq.Ft. Then they left, never to return. The didn’t even really fix anything since they just primed over an area of peeling paint without removing the existing bad paint job.

    It would be great to know more about how some of the MTA’s projects go so far off track. Is it union work rules and pay scales? Lack of expertise in management and oversight? Crappy management? Unrealistic budgeting? What’s the problem? It’s really easy to say that the MTA is a bad gumment agency and stop thinking but it would be really valuable to have a more complete perspective. I guess cynicism is easier for journalists. I really want to know who decided to prime a tiny portion of the ceiling and why. Not to blame them or get them fired but something like that probably indicates a more serious problem somewhere.

  • Dan, the answer is probably all of the above. New York City tunneling projects cost about 7 times more than comparable projects in Europe and Japan; you can’t explain it with just one factor. One problem is consultant creep, which leads to stupid engineering decisions (the biggest smoking guns: deep-level construction under Grand Central for ESA, and 500-meter tail tracks for the 7 extension). Another is that local union rules mandate overstaffing. Yet another is that to avoid being burned the MTA writes overexacting specs, which are so byzantine that all contractors who can get instead private sector work avoid MTA projects; for what it’s worth, this is the favorite explanation of commenters who profess insider knowledge of the procurement process.