DMI to Gov Candidates: New Yorkers Need to Know Your Transit Platforms

John Petro and Dan Morris at the Drum Major Institute have a great op-ed in the Albany Times-Union today, asking the candidates for governor how they plan to deal with New York’s transit funding crisis. With the largest MTA service cut in a generation barely behind us, the third fare hike in three years looming in January, a $9 billion hole in the agency’s five-year capital plan, and a huge pile of debt that threatens to make future fare hikes steep and painful, the next governor needs to build support for bold funding solutions. Incremental steps won’t cut it.

From top: Candidates Cuomo, Lazio, and Paladino. Photos via candidate websites.

But here we are, with less than three weeks until primary day and about two
months until the general election, and the candidates for governor
haven’t given any indication how they’ll handle the crisis except to make it worse.

Petro and Morris write:

State lawmakers must craft a long-term plan for taming the debt they
let grow out of control and for maximizing new sources of transit
funding without overburdening average taxpayers or the riding public.

That brings us to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo
and his challengers for the executive mansion. The next governor will
have to demonstrate precisely the kind of leadership absent in Albany
if there is any hope of reprioritizing public transit and fixing the
MTA. So the media should push the gubernatorial candidates, especially
frontrunner Cuomo, to explain their ideas.

Cuomo’s policy
platform doesn’t mention the MTA. It includes only a brief endorsement
of high-speed rail service between New York City and Buffalo, and a
single paragraph on a "state infrastructure bank" that would enable
better coordination of state infrastructure funds and better
competition for federal transportation grants. Yet, on the stump, Cuomo
has hinted he may roll back the taxes necessary to support public
transit. Some clarification is definitely in order.

There are millions of transit riders coping with worse service right now who only have higher fares to look forward to. The political response of the typical New York state incumbent is to deflect that rider anger right back onto the MTA. The candidate who wants to distinguish himself from the Albany status quo could start clarifying his transit policy in a very simple way: Start telling the truth about why our transit system is in deep trouble.