Forget the subway, I’ll take my chances in a car

By Jane Flanagan

I’m now trying to figure out how to carpool my son to school in the fall. I think the days of taking him by subway are over. The London bombings were it for me. But since I’m a natural hysteric, I always run these impulsive policies by my husband to see if he thinks I’m whacko. He doesn’t.

But then it’s no wonder. Because reading about the security of New York subways in The New York Times was to observe the Keystone Cops. But first, I have to say, why the media waits until a horrendous thing happens elsewhere in the world to focus on our own vulnerabilities, is beyond me. You’d think 9/11 would have proven once and for all “Hey, we are vulnerable. Let’s stay on top of this!” But, since the bombings, the papers were finally filled with concrete information. I got educated. And then some.

My favorite quote was from a “high-ranking New York law enforcement official” speaking on the likelihood of a bombing on the New York subways: “My feeling is, it’s a matter of time,” he said.

Carpool anyone? I also learned why he might think so. After 9/11, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority spent a year and a half studying how to improve security. It then said it had $600 million to put new security measures in place. But so far, only $30 million has been spent and that was on consultants and more studies. When questioned about this absurd timetable last week, the M.T.A.’s response was not to worry, by the end of the year it would have another plan — on how to spend $300 million.

I feel safer, don’t you? I think it’s time to nationalize New York subway security. Or something. Anything, but keep the M.T.A. in charge.

But the M.T.A. is only the most extreme example of bureaucratic bungling. What are the police doing? Not much, apparently. Another whopper quotecame from Kathy Reul, 44, a health care worker from Queens who spoke to the Times: “I drink a beer every day on the subway. I don’t have it in a cup. I have not seen a police officer on a subway train in a long time. If I can get away with having a beer, I can get away with having a bomb.”

But that’s okay because the mayor announced, what the media refers to, as the “extraordinary” measure of putting one cop on each rush hour subway train. This will last for a whole week. Is it me? How is this extraordinary? And this from a city that keeps telling me to be alert to strange people and packages. Wouldn’t the men and women in blue be at least as good, if not better, than me? Isn’t that why I pay taxes? To have police patrolling for terrorists rather than depending on me and the guy across the subway car? But given their budget constraints, I understand they can’t do much better.

Because a year after 9/11, the New York City police force had 4,000 fewer officers on the rolls than it did on 9/11, according to Richard Clarke in his book “Against All Enemies.” Congress doesn’t seem too keen to give us needed security funding, either. In fiscal year 2004, the state of Wyoming got $38.61 per person in homeland security funds compared to New York State’s $5.47. How many subways do you think they have in Wyoming?

But despite the haggling over limited security funds, I keep reading articles in the paper about the “uber-rich” and the tax cuts that benefit them. What are we doing? Should we really sacrifice our own secrutity to give more money to people who don’t need it?

But that’s okay because in fiscal year 2005 things improve. Wyoming will now get $27.80 compared to New York’s $15.54. But yes, it is still ridiculous. But there may be some good news, anyway. Congressmember Carolyn Maloney recently issued a press release announcing the passage of a new bill to cut funding to low risk states and raise it to high risk. It even passed by a vote of 409-10, according to the release. So that’s something positive. But wait, this bill has to pass the Senate to become law, and over there they have their own security funding plan. And it’s not good. The Collins-Lieberman bill would actually increase the amount Wyoming receives and decrease what New York does.

Okay, first off, I think I’ll call my senators. While I have them, I’ll ask if they think tax rebates for carpools might fly.

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