Monday, December 8, 2008


The braggadocio me says, “Yep, I called it!” The old fart me blames texting for the idiocratic inability to have a memory or attention span that could possibly reach back to April. April! The frustrated civic writer in me wants to learn three foreign languages just to have a large enough vocabulary to throttle these pricks in print and destroy them.

Again, we just went through this in April. April! In my piece, Congestion Pricing: Be A Snot-Nosed Rich Prick, I spelled out a near epic list of arguments that should have come up in the battle to keep New York City’s East River and Harlem River crossings free from the disgustingly greedy power-monger lies and their dollar sign, cartoon eyeballs. Moreover though, debunked point after debunked moronic point was expressed as one common warning. I warned that congestion pricing initiatives would keep popping up again and again, with new names, new ways to mitigate objections, and new efforts to grab our hard-earned, recession pinched cash from the thin air left in our pockets. Never, though, in my wildest dreams did I think we’d be facing the same deplorable classists and their crusade to wrench money, if even through our collective anuses, less than seven months after the exact same proposed methodology was laughed out of Albany. Seven months! They’re baaaa-aaaack, at least a veritable cultist subset of them.

This time around, it’s the MTA, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, that’s out to do it. Yes, it’s the same Metropolitan Transit Authority mentioned in my historical Triborough Bridge argument. This is the same MTA, the company, that already controls that bridge and others, all the NYC subways, and all the NYC buses. Despite their near constant subway and bus fare hikes in my dozen years here, their recent takeover of all the private bus companies and routes within the city limits, their never ending push for folks to use mass transit, their massive job eliminations and rolling token booth closures, their near triennial bridge toll hikes, and their mass marketing of subway themed products that did not exist just a decade ago, they are somehow broke again. Functionally on the heels of their last birthed subway and bus fare hike that was supposed to quash their then alleged deficit, instead rumored to actually have been a multi-million dollar surplus amidst their public refusal to allow NYC to examine their books, the MTA'holes are now claiming a new 1.9 billion dollar budget gap that is estimated to reach 3 billion by next year. I guess your last fare hike didn’t work!

To close this gap, they will use the bailout driven economic environment to request rescue funds from city and/or state sources. When they don’t get that, because the city and state are trying to close gaps of their own and because government would be more than happy to take over the subway and buses in the event of an MTA failure, they are going to shoot for the moon with a plan to grab the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, and the Queensboro Bridge (a.k.a 59th Street Bridge), as well as all the remaining smaller bridges that cross the Harlem River, and covert them from free thoroughfares to tolled ones. In other words, their plan to bail themselves out of another reputed economic failure of the NYC subway system, is to charge drivers of cars. Pardon me, dickwods, but isn’t that like raising Amtrak fares to pay for jet fuel?

Now, dumbass ideas knowing no bounds, the MTA plan fails to stop there. It does not stop at glomming seven bridges currently owned and run by the city, for free, to transform them into giant, unlimited ATMs. No. Another part of the plan is to simultaneously raise the subway and bus fares a full dollar or, in other words, to do exactly what charging drivers is hypothetically supposed to prevent.

But wait there’s more! This simultaneum will additionally be congruent with MTA layoffs, closures, and downsizing including the elimination of certain trains and bus routes. So, straphangers already paying the highest per ride fare in the country will now pay a full dollar more per ride (raised from $2.00 to $3.00) for less service and be forced to cope with larger crowds within that remaining service. Plus, for that headache, will they even get the feeling of security that might be knowing their dependable subway system is at all solvent? No! This ridiculous act of pay more, much more, get less, gleans absolutely nothing. It is an arbitrary fare increase that, according to the very people threatening the increase, will not help. Instead, they have to snatch a bunch of bridges they never had before and use them to charge ALL drivers, yes ALL drivers, who have absolutely nothing to do with a subway system deficit.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but he only visits MTA Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger and then blows him!

Okay, so here’s the obligatory “to be fair” paragraph. To be fair, the MTA plan has not released how exactly it would rend these bridges from city ownership, making the plan seem to New Yorkers like a longshot. To be fair, they have included one idea that I hadn’t seen in the defunct NYC Congestion Pricing proposal which is to not toll via booths, but via EZ-Pass scanners and traffic cameras that photograph license plates, both thereafter sending drivers a bill in the mail. That’s all I can give them. The rest of the idea shits on us profusely.

Hey Hemmerdinger, let’s not pat ourselves on the back for the traffic camera and scanners idea just yet! Firstly, it’s not the MTA’s idea. If you were creative thinkers, you wouldn’t be proposing the very same idea that was just trounced in April.

I’m gonna buy that failed ice cream parlor on the corner of Nowhere and Nonesuch and make it into my own ice cream parlor! I’m a genius!”

Secondly, where have I heard the anti-camera argument before? Oh yeah, in my piece My New NYC Revenue Proposal: The Civilian Ticket Patrol. I may have employed a little reverse psychology there, but can anyone truly ignore the resulting cry of disgruntled NYC citizens who yearn for privacy?

Look, just like I’d written, the idea has expectedly resurged again with a few minor changes in hopes of masquerading as a new idea. At the very outset, that’s its own reprehensible problem. It states that tolling the free bridges of central New York and charging your own residents to get to work is the only idea anybody has to close budget gaps. Freakin’ automatons!

Duh, let’s toll the bridges and make millions a week. No? Um, okay let’s toll the bridges and make millions a week. No good? Okay, let’s toll the bridges and make millions per week and also raise existing fares!

Still though, outside of an extreme lack of thought and creativity on the part of every person strapped with closing a budget gap, most of my original arguments still work to fight this new incarnation. The checklist balances like this.

Booth troubles – No longer an argument
Exporting traffic angle – No longer an argument

Still – Punishes people who are doing the right thing
Still – Not a green initiative
Still - Charges people to get to and/or from their own neighborhoods
Still – Ignores tell-tale Triborough Bridge History
Still – Ignores the tell-tale “one city” history of bridges
Still – Unfairly segregates Queens and Brooklyn from Manhattan
Still – Ignores logical and historical toll function
Still – Unfairly charges 150,000 – 275,000 pregnant commuters yearly
Still – Reads a poor choice for toll placement
Still – Mimics the poor effects of the New Jersey Port Authority toll hikes

Newly – Charges drivers to close a subway budget gap
Newly – Fails to ask why the last plan and hike didn’t work
Newly – Creates less service for more money
Newly – Presumes that what was not a good idea seven months ago is a good idea now
Newly – Puts all remaining transit choices in the hands of a nearly untouchable, independent company with a captive client base

With all these counter-arguments, why do I think the plan has legs enough to get through if we don’t fight it? Well, it was the Mayor of the city that just tried and failed to toll most of the same bridges. It’s not such a far fetched argument that this way the MTA could simply ask for the bridges and the city could say, “Here, please take them off of our hands for free.” At least the old plan was going to get us millions from the federal government to improve mass transit. The new plan gets nada. Oh, did I mention the Mayor appoints four of the MTA Board members? Did I mention he also wants stuff from them?

Plus, I think it is no error that such a plan is being proposed right at the post-election change-over of local powers from the old guard who stomped down congestion pricing to a new guard that, in some cases, wasn’t even involved in the battle.

Also, the city and state, trying to close their own budget gaps, might jump at the chance to cross off bridge maintenance and reconstruction from their line items.

My friends, I understand belt tightening and fiscal responsibility better than most. I understand the drastic measures that must be taken by our government (not our companies) to fix stupid spending decisions passed. I believe that, having chosen to live here, part of that burden will actually be my own. This does not change the fact that an illogical, poor, mean-spirited, hurtful, non-creative, never-ending and counter-intuitive plan will ever be acceptable. We will go to war and take lives as a last resort in the name of saving lives. We don’t, however, get to take money in the name of saving money, even as a last resort. It doesn’t work. Why, is this, then, everybody’s very first resort?

You know, with world events being what they are, New Orleans an orphaned city, Wall Street in shambles, the U.S. auto industry castigated, successful terrorist attacks seemingly non-stop and everywhere, global climate change, foreclosure after foreclosure; I must just come off as some little runt who doesn’t want to pay six to twenty bucks a day for a round trip to work. Okay, granted. I never want to pay money for what was once free. But every single one of these disastrous world events is at least partially a result of poor and uninsightful decision making on massive scales. I am talking about one such massive decision on a massive scale impacting more than just mass transit, but all transit. Can we not learn enough from our previous approaches to poor decisions to examine the problem differently in the moment? Can we not identify what is wrong with a proposed “solution,” all the things that are wrong with a proposed “solution,” and then move on to something else? How can a government that just seven months ago debated both sides of an issue and deemed one side bad for New York at all entertain that same side of that same issue in a plan by a private organization? It shouldn’t be allowed. They should tell the MTA, “We just spent and lost millions of our own dollars to prove your plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Now don’t come back until you think of something else!”

Now that we see that no voice here, except perhaps my own, has any new or creative ideas, we can further see the nauseatingly repeated plan to toll the free bridges in its truer category. Tolling free bridges is not a plan. It’s giving up. It’s throwing in the towel. It’s getting the supposedly greatest financial and political minds together in a room for months on end just for them to conclude, “Fuck it! This is too hard. Just toll those bridges! We don’t even care who makes the money at this point.” There are more creative solutions. Just listen to your people. You are not going to get an all-in-one gift solution. It’ll be a package. It’ll be the creative efforts of bunches of smaller, positive programs that help you reach your goals. It’s like paying for college. You contribute some, your parents contribute some, you get a school scholarship, a private scholarship, a grant, a student loan, and work study. You’ll have to do the leg work to put together a positive and reasonable package of many ideas that work. I know that people who are used to having the money around hate the new leg work to dig up dollar sources. I know they want a fairy to hit them on the head with a wand and say, “Make a wish.” Get real. Get to work. If you’ve got a budget gap, the answerS ARE somewhere in your budget.

1 comment:

Pockets said...

Update: News from the Obama transition camp shows the early stages of what might be much federal funding for mass transit, including MTA run institutions of NYC.