Watch Andrew Cuomo’s Bizarre, Rambling Take on the State of NYC Transit

From behind a lectern with a placard that said “Modernizing the MTA,” Governor Andrew Cuomo argued today that the MTA is old and outdated, so he deserves credit for even the most basic upgrades. He sounded like someone ranting to himself on a street corner, not a governor with a sound plan to improve the transit system he runs.

The occasion was a press conference announcing a new ticketing app for Metro-North and LIRR commuters. Cue to the eight-minute mark in the video to watch Cuomo ramble about how, unlike his predecessors, current MTA chief Tom Prendergast must operate the MTA while building a “new system.”

“Not rebuild the existing system, not fix the existing,” said Cuomo. “He has to build anew.”

“Why?” he continued. “Because the MTA system as we now have it was built in a different time and in a different place, and it cannot handle the volume and the scale that we are talking about today in New York. You can’t do it with Band-Aids and you can’t stretch it any more than we’ve stretched it. The system is just too small to manage this population.”

Cuomo pointed out that the population of New York City and the region has grown quite a bit since the first subway opened in 1904. (Not mentioned: The subways grew for a few more decades, and the city’s population wasn’t all that much smaller than it is today by the time the major expansions concluded.)

“You can’t make a system that was designed and constructed for that scale work for the current-day scale,” Cuomo said. “And government’s tried in fits and starts to use bailing wire and duct tape and bubble gum and all sorts of ways to make it work. It’s not going to work. You have to build a new system.”

The accompanying tweet was equally confused, grossly exaggerating the number of people who ride the LIRR every day:

Cuomo is right that the subways are jam packed, service is deteriorating, and the system is showing its age. But it’s bizarre to imply that necessary improvements will somehow be separate from the current system. The MTA can run trains closer together on its existing tracks with modern signals, an undertaking that is taking the agency ages to complete. It could carry more passengers by purchasing trains with open gangways. It could build subway expansions faster if it brought construction costs closer to international norms.

The governor is the one person in a position to implement and accelerate these changes — changes that would have a much bigger impact than a ticketing app — but he has never shown that he has a grasp on what matters for transit.

Instead, today Cuomo riffed for a while about how government is “handcuffed” from building new projects because the public is “litigious” and doesn’t like change. He went on to cite airport construction and his enormous new Tappan Zee Bridge as exemplars of the “fundamentally new” transportation system he has in mind. Airports and highway bridges — Andrew Cuomo’s vision of the future.

  • Vooch

    Gov is gunning to be in charge of a super agency after he leaves Albany. A super agency with hundreds of billions of loot to squander on his cronies. Think Robert Moses on amphetamines.

  • JudenChino

    A monorail! Bring us a monorail!

  • cjstephens

    Nah, that’s more of a _Shelbyville_ idea.

  • kevd

    Mobile ticketing is good. So good every other city has had it for a few years…
    Everything else is the insane ramblings of a half-wit.

  • rao

    He is right that a new system is needed. But not because the MTA is too small. Because it’s too hamstrung and doesn’t have enough resources or incentives to serve the public as it should.

  • Andrew

    Replacing the existing system with a new one would consume exceedingly more “resources” and “incentives” than improving and expanding the one we have now.

  • The MTA has a lot of resources that they can’t spend or manage effectively. I’ve come to believe that throwing more money, without a serious effort at institutional reform, is not going to solve the MTA’s problems.

  • Mark Walker

    Show us the money, Mr. Governor. Show us the money that will accelerate the signals replacement. Show us the money that will ventilate the stations instead of letting us die of heatstroke. Show us the money that will put countdown clocks in every subway station and bus stop. Show us the money that will fully fund the capital and operating budgets without adding more debt, debt being the agency’s biggest waste of money. We don’t need your posturing. We need a fully funded transit system that expands to provide good service (of one kind or another) to every neighborhood in the city. Put up or shut up.

  • Vooch

    SAS Is exanple of What MTA does with it’s money

  • Larry Littlefield

    The schools are demanding more money. And the pensions and debt service will be getting more money. That’s where it is going in the state with the highest tax burden in the country.

    Cuomo is like ALL the politicians right now, either stuttering incoherently or proposing fantasies. Because they don’t want to face, don’t want to say, sorry but you’re screwed. Here is how I propose to allocate the sacrifices to limit the damage, with the older generations that benefitted sharing in them while we can.

    Christie, Cuomo, Rauer, Emmanuel, Republican, Democrat, all the same.

  • kevd

    I have no idea what those “ridership” numbers are even trying to be about.
    8.2M Subway riders? Not per day… that 5.6 million. The NYC Population? Also not exactly close (its 8.5 million).
    The 7.6M on the LIRR? Is that per month?
    Why not use annual ridership for both?

    Nonsensical numbers from a nonsensical man.

    Also, the Subway carried more riders 60 years ago. Granted, before some elevated lines were torn down.

  • ahwr

    7.6 and 8.2 million are the populations from the 2010 census.

  • kevd

    Ah! Well, good to see his numbers are up to date….

  • Maggie

    You get a USB charging dock in the ceiling of the bus! And YOU get a USB charging dock in the ceiling of the bus! EVERYBODY gets a USB charging dock in the ceiling of their bus!! It’s what transit is all about…

  • BBnet3000

    Is this a concern with rehabilitation and state of good repair work the way it clearly is with expansion projects?

  • Moreso with expansion and big-ticket capital projects, but it bleeds into SOGR work too. Look at how long the Culver Viaduct work has taken, for instance.

  • AMH

    How exactly do we build a “new system” without improving the one we have? Typically incoherent blather.

  • neroden

    And they aren’t even implementing ADA upgrades with station work, when they’re legally required to. There’s a cultural problem within the organization which needs fixing.


He's the boss. Photo: Flickr/NYS Governor's Office

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