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New York Post


Blood On The Tracks

March 26, 2009

By Nicole Gelinas

Albany's Deadly MTA Inaction

"Shock and grief are the instant reactions to the subway disaster in Queens that killed two pas sengers and injured many others yesterday . . . the [MTA] has ig nored serious safety slippage, in cluding a series of derailments and collisions." -- NY Times,

May 21, 1970

"Yesterday's crash was the fourth major accident . . . in the last seven months . . . There was a crash at the Pelham Bay Park IRT station in the Bronx on Feb. 27 in which seven persons were injured, and a derailment and collision . . . in The Bronx, in which 48 persons were hurt."

-- the Times, July 18, 1970

"The Transit Authority has been slowly replacing safety equipment designed to prevent a crash like the one that killed five passengers early Wednesday morning. But there was no new equipment just north of the Union Square station, where a motorman roared through a switch in New York's worst sub way disaster in 63 years."

-- the Times, Aug. 31, 1991

THOSE stories are now a glimpse of our future -- thanks to legislative leaders Malcolm Smith and Shelly Silver, along with Gov. Paterson.

Albany's "three men in a room" don't want people to die, but increasing subway peril is the natural result of their failure to address the MTA's funding crisis.

The clock started ticking yesterday. That's when the MTA moved to raise fares and slash service because Albany couldn't get it together.

Now that its revenues from real-estate-related taxes have plummeted, the MTA can't cover its fast-rising labor and debt costs. And its woes are much worse because Albany has consistently chosen to fund health care and education over mass transit in recent years, even as ridership has soared.

But the killer is that Albany has also failed to act by now on the MTA's other crisis: It has almost no money for the $20 billion-plus in capital investments that it must make over the next half-decade just to keep subways, commuter rails and buses running well and safely.

Now, the MTA will put together a capital budget without having any idea where the money's supposed to come from. If this goes on, it will start skimping on capital investments: It can only get so much money from fare hikes, and it can't raise any new debt.

Yet the real danger is that it could take years for the worst results to show. So Albany may well decide that it can keep on getting away with neglecting transit.

This could be a -- literally -- fatal breakdown in a state capital in which short-term political interests always seem to win out over the state's long-term interests.

vConsider: The last time Albany and the city completely surrendered our vital physical infrastructure, starting in the '60s, the eventual results were deaths, injury and maddeningly unpredictable commutes, as seen from the articles quoted above.

But it took years for those results to show. Then, it took time -- more years -- to fix things, once the state started putting money back into the MTA in the early '80s.

No one has died because of a derailment or the like in almost two decades, longer than most New Yorkers have lived in the city. That's wonderful -- but it also makes people forget what's really at stake.

Yes, incompetence and negligence play a role in bad crashes, too. But incompetence and negligence are more likely when the state won't invest in MTA capital assets. What person with another choice would want to run the MTA when the job is just watching the system disintegrate? Of course, some political hack will do it.

As you read this, the Albany politicos are choosing to fund Medicaid, education spending and ridiculous benefits for public workers (including the MTA's union workers) -- instead of mass-transit assets. Billions on these things buy more votes.

Think that it can't happen? Well, after Katrina, people wondered why New Orleans and Louisiana politicians had cared so little about the city's vital flood-control defenses. They left the work and the funding up to the feds. And what the locals did do -- maintenance work -- they allowed to be infected by incompetence and worse.

How could people be so shortsighted and craven to spend money and energy on more politically popular (and, often, personally lucrative) pursuits when it put thousands of people in danger?

Well, this is how.

Original Source:



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