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OpinionColumnistsMike Vogel

On MTA funding flap, don't blame the messenger

New York City commuters wait on a platform

New York City commuters wait on a platform as a train arrives at a subway station in 2012. Photo Credit: Getty Images

I was recently stuck on a crowded 14th Street subway platform endlessly waiting for the 1 train when someone screamed, "And they want a damn fare hike??" Riders on the mobbed platform cheered him as he stormed off.

After battling freezing weather all winter trying to get to work, often being late due to a rash of subway delays and crawling buses, the last thing millions of New York riders want to hear is news of another mass transit fare increase. But that's exactly what we are getting on Sunday, when fares will go up an average of 4 percent.

Where do we direct our righteous anger? On the MTA, too often lax on the day-to-day operations of its systems and tone deaf to the legitimate gripes of its riders? On the State Legislature, which refuses to fund the $15 billion the MTA needs for its capital plan? Or the city, whose measly $100-million annual contribution to the plan hasn't even come close to keeping up with inflation?

While the MTA justly complains about lack of leadership from state and local officials in funding the agency's capital plan, where has the MTA leadership been all these years? After promising to stay for the duration and fight for funding to maintain the transit fare, former MTA chairman Jay Walder resigned four years ago, and jumped ship for a million-dollar-plus job in Hong Kong, while Joe Lhota spent a year on the job before abandoning his post in a failed attempt to be elected mayor.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio posture as if they are on our side, but have clearly been lacking in leadership on this issue and keep passing the buck back and forth, with both refusing to accept blame for adequately funding the MTA.

With no one taking responsibility for this mess, guess who winds up paying the freight?

Friday is the first day of spring. Unfortunately, according to the latest forecast, the only thing that will be heating up this week are transit fares. While our anger at the MTA isn't totally unjustified, isn't it about time we stop giving our mayor, governor and State Legislature a free pass?


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