OPINION: Put mayor in charge of subways and buses


BY COREY JOHNSON | We’ve all been there: Stuck in a crowded subway car due to “signal problems,” or sitting on a bus moving so slowly that you might as well have walked.

Frustration with our mass transit system is a New York state of mind we’re all unfortunately accustomed to. But I truly believe it doesn’t have to be this way.

The vast majority of the problems with our system can be summed up in one word: accountability.

Corey Johnson wants New York City’s mayor to have the final say over our transit system. (Courtesy Corey Johnson’s Office)

There isn’t any.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is a state authority controlled by the governor, with its own budget that’s approved by a bunch of board members most New Yorkers have never even heard of.

It’s confusing, which is the point. How else could the people in charge avoid blame and responsibility when things go wrong?

The buck has to stop with someone, and it has to be someone who knows that if they don’t get it right their job is on the line.

This is why I support municipal control of the subways, which would mean accountability would fall squarely on one person — the mayor of New York City.

It means we run our subways, we run Staten Island rail, we plan our bus routes — right now the city doesn’t even do that — and we control the toll money from the seven bridges and tunnels currently run by the M.T.A.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s all well and good, but how does that help my commute?

Those signal problems making you late for work all the time? That is what happens when no one is responsible. It’s the result of decades of misplaced priorities.

Our subway signals date back to the 1930s.

They’ve never been upgraded because the M.T.A.’s governance structure incentivized short-term glamour projects over the long-term investments we really need. It’s painting the outside of a house that’s falling apart inside.

And the result? We allow a 21st-century system to operate with infrastructure that was built in the 1930s — like what is happening now.

What about our slow buses?

Municipal control would help get our buses moving again because for the first time ever, the city — and not the state — would be able to quickly fix routes that aren’t working and work in close coordination with the Department of Transportation, which is currently under our control.

That means better, more cohesive bus service that gets New Yorkers where they need to be faster.

It makes no sense that different entities are covering both our subways and buses now. Municipal control isn’t just more accountable. It’s more efficient, too.

Making municipal control a reality won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. But this is worth fighting for. We have to think big to solve the problem of how we move around our city. We can’t let fear of the politically difficult stop us from taking on this challenge. We have to get New York City moving again.

I’m ready to fight for this for as long as it takes to make it happen. I hope you’ll fight alongside me.

Johnson is the City Council speaker and represents Council District 3 (Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, West Soho, Hudson Square, Times Square, Garment District, Flatiron and part of the Upper West Side)