Cuomo’s “Ambitious” Transport Program: a Hodgepodge of Pandering

Try to picture this: Governor Cuomo, announcing a big MTA funding commitment, promises subway and bus fares won’t rise for four years. And in fact, people who buy monthly MetroCards will get a de facto fare cut via tax credits. Infrastructure upgrades and lower fares — sweet deal.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast rode an E train from Chambers St. to 34 St.-Penn Station on Thu., September 25, 2014 to assure New Yorkers that all security precautions are being taken, and that the subway system is safe amid reports of unspecified threats. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit
Cuomo has mastered the optics of transportation policy. Photo: Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit via wikimedia

Hard to imagine? For New York City transit riders, yes. But not for people who drive on upstate roads, because yesterday Cuomo promised them the same thing — a huge funding commitment and lower tolls. The rest of New York will be paying for their subsidized driving, while transit riders in the city will face the usual fare hike every two years.

Modest, predictable fare increases aren’t a bad way to go — it beats getting socked by a huge fare hike all at once after putting it off for a long time. What’s galling about Cuomo’s highway subsidies is that the governor is wantonly pandering under the guise of “economic development.” People and industries that depend on upstate highways are a constituency he fawns over; New York City transit riders he takes for granted.

The Thruway toll cuts are part of a parade of proposals that Cuomo is calling “the most ambitious transportation development plan in modern history,” in the run-up to his State of the State address next week. A better description would be “Andrew Cuomo’s transportation politics on steroids.”

The plan has everything we’ve come to expect from Cuomo — giveaways to upstate motorists, glossy monuments of limited practical value (today’s installment: expanding the Javits Center), and no real explanation of how he’s going to pay for it all. Other than the LIRR third track project, which is great, there’s nothing in the package that addresses a major transportation problem or opportunity. This is ambitious?

The really high priorities for the region — cutting crippling traffic, securing the future of trans-Hudson transit, planning for transit-based growth — are either way out on the margins of Cuomo’s agenda or nowhere to be seen at all.

Cuomo’s upstate agenda is, if anything, even worse. Cities like Buffalo and Syracuse have been hollowed out by highways. The costs of sprawl are impoverishing those regions. More cheap motoring is exactly what they don’t need. Even though better ideas are out there — Syracuse is itching to tear down I-81 to rejuvenate its downtown — Cuomo hasn’t shown any initiative to act on them. His $30 million commitment to upstate transit is 1/733 the size of his $22 billion pledge for roads.

That’s what happens when your “ambitious” transportation policy is guided by vanity, political expedience, and short-term thinking.

  • Fool

    Can we just name something after Cuomo already? He just wants a Cuomo Bridge, a Cuomo Station, a Cuomo Airport…

  • Given his services to roads, how about the BQE? I’ve considered calling for it to be named the “Robert Moses expressway system”. But I’m happy to stick Cuomo’s name on there.

  • bolwerk

    How about a septic processing plant?

  • bolwerk

    Can we take a moment to spread a little h8 for Bill de Blasio and local pols too? Cuomo sucks, yes, but a lot of what lets stuff like this happen is that nobody actually objects to it except on obscure transportation blogs (sorry).

    Bill de Blasio should be howling up a nuclear shitstorm about how NYC is getting fleeced and then fucked. And the City Council, our local Assembly reps, and NYS Senate delegates from NYC should all be pointing out that the ~43% of the state population that is being asked to pay for this isn’t getting anything other than a an ugly mall out of the deal.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Perhaps the problem is he has already announced all the things the rest of the state won’t actually be getting, without announcing what New York City residents won’t actually be getting?

  • EcoAdvocate

    I’m in upstate and I don’t want to give-aways to motorists here either. If people want to drive, they need to pay the cost of driving, not get handouts for a mode of transportation that is much less necessary than the way we are using it.

  • com63

    He is not going to build any of this stuff. He is just going to plan for another 3-4 years and then try to run for president in 2020. He just cares about making himself look good. He doesn’t care about the people of this city or state and definitely doesn’t care about sticking anyone with the bill in 5-10 years.

  • M to the I

    How about the Cuomo – Verrazzano Narrows Bridge Bikeway 🙂 Let’s get ‘er done!

  • neroden

    Thanks for the comment regarding Cuomo’s idiotic 1950s upstate agenda.

    The Big Three upstate cities — Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse — *all* have excess highways which they need to tear down. All three are badly in need of public transportation improvements. All three are in need of improved intercity rail connections to New York City. If you just look at streets, they all need major sidewalk repairs.

    And Cuomo proposes… giveaways to expressway drivers. Ugh.

    Honestly one of the biggest problems upstate has is how disconnected it is from New York City. The trains to NYC were faster in the 1950s than they are now! If we restored reliable, higher-speed train service, it would become more plausible for businesses to locate upstate, knowing that they could visit NYC easily when they needed to.


Sooner or Later, the Cuomo Fare Hike Is Coming

Earlier this week, Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff crunched the numbers to see what could happen if Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t follow through on his pledge to restore the $320 million in MTA funding cuts he signed into law on Monday. The cost to commuters, the economy, and public health, he found, could substantially outweigh the […]