The Thanksgiving Holiday doesn’t exactly lend itself to transportation news; it’s a sedentary period, with people far more interested in eating and shopping than getting around. We haven’t updated this blog for the past week because there’s been almost nothing happening in our particular realm. But the next three weeks leading to Christmas and New Year’s will be an interesting period. Will the Obama Administration-elect be more specific in its policy proposals? Will Congress consider John Kerry’s High-Speed Rail Bill? Will transit systems nationwide be able to handle the oncoming fiscal crisis?
We’ll be considering all of these issues over the next few weeks here on the transport politic, but in the meantime, today’s news updates, from New York City.
The New York Times has an interesting article on Richard Ravitch’s role in finding new funding sources for the region’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Ravitch is set to release a study on Friday arguing for the implementation of a new commuter tax, an increase in subway and bus fares, and tolls on the East and Harlem River bridges. All of this extra revenue will go towards funding the Authority’s budget and its proposed capital spending, which reaches to $30 billion over the next five years alone.
The question is whether New York State’s leaders will bite. Though Ravitch led a successful push for an increase in transit funding in the 1980s, the budget atmosphere today on the state level may be even more austere than it was then. In a period in which the budget for human and social services as well as that for education is being slashed dramatically, can we expect Governor David Paterson to recommend an increase in spending for the MTA?
Obviously we’d like to see him do just that. But considering last year’s monumental fight over a congestion fee – which Mayor Michael Bloomberg ultimately failed to implement because of the State Assembly’s unwillingness to force car drivers to pay – Ravitch’s commission has a lot of work yet to do.
The Associated Press brings the strange information that the MTA actually writes excuse notes for people who are victims of transit delays. Evidently, if a customer asks for a note, the Authority will compile exact information about the problem on the route and then send a letter out within two weeks.
In Connecticut, there is increasing talk of cutting Metro-North service on the New Haven Line, which serves New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, and cities in between, with direct trains to Grand Central Terminal. New York State’s eastern neighbor wants to cut four daily off-peak trains in order to close a budget gap. But with Metro-North ridership rising, this seems like a bad move at a bad time. Seems like Connecticut may need its own Ravitch commission.
Finally, the New York Times‘ Charles Delafuente writes today about the excavation of a new subway entrance on Times Square. It’s a good short Sunday read about the perils of digging below the new Eleven Times Square skyscraper.