Subway and bus riders have endured years of subpar service as well as a dysfunctional and underfunded MTA.
So kudos to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson for at least laying out a detailed, 100-plus page moonshot for how to reform it.
In his State of the City speech on Tuesday at LaGuardia Community College, Johnson proposed putting the subway and buses under city control. The mayor would be in charge along with a new city board. The city also would seek expanded power to tax itself, and key funding streams, current and proposed, would go entirely to NYC.
That’s just part of Johnson’s overhaul, which also includes reforming the transportation system’s procurement and construction procedures, plus a commitment to big thinking about how New Yorkers move around the city even when they’re not swiping a MetroCard.
Johnson’s plan, not publicly supported for now by the mayor or governor, appears dead on arrival, at least in the short term or until he is mayor himself. He wants to break up the MTA, a task perhaps harder than trying to fix the gargantuan, complex organization tied to so many parts of life in New York. Would the commuter rails to Long Island and Westchester survive alone? What happens to day-to-day service in the decade it will take to unravel it all? Is there appetite for change in the State Legislature?
These questions and Johnson’s larger issues should be looked at, clearly there is an appetite for some transit shake-ups. First among them: congestion pricing, the concept of tolling entry to parts of Manhattan to raise money for mass transit and reduce traffic.
Johnson supports this. The State Legislature, which has authority to pull it off, is considering a congestion pricing plan in this year’s budget. Johnson’s proposal is no excuse not to act now to ease traffic and increase revenue.
Johnson’s plan does have smart initiatives to quickly make NYC streets safer and easier to navigate: more pedestrian plazas, bike and bus lanes, and new truck-delivery rules, for example. The City Council can and should start there.