Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Should We Trust The MTA?

Not that it matters at this point in time, but it seems that the congestion pricing debate is out of the public's hands and into the state legislature's. Sure we can still protest to our respective Assemblymembers and Senators, but the support and opposition is pretty solid by now and the Governor is working with Bloomberg to make sure what the city council passed this week goes through as planned. One of the big questions in the congestion pricing debate was whether the money would actually go to improving the system like Bloomberg said. Well N.Y.P.I.R.G. and Straphanger Campaign extraordinaire Gene Russianoff sounded off on the issue this morning.

He's telling us to trust the lockbox:

As a transit advocate for the last 25 years, I share these concerns. We all know stories about how money collected by state and city government hasn't gone where it should, such as Lotto proceeds intended for improving schools.

The Congestion Mitigation Commission (on which I served) proposed a "transit lockbox" to safeguard all congestion-pricing revenues. The legislation approved by the City Council and now under consideration in Albany contains this provision - and strengthens it, by ensuring that congestion-pricing funds can only go to improve, not just maintain, the transit system.

This mandates that congestion pricing won't simply replace state funds the MTA would've gotten anyway. And to prevent political funny business, the money generated by congestion pricing goes directly to the MTA, so that Albany can't take it away.

Well thats great that Albany can't take it away. Though the MTA has a history of saying one thing and doing another, like they did last week when the money from fare increase meant for improving service disappeared. Russianoff claims that we should trust this because he sat on the creation of this lockbox (how Gore-esque of him) and that when the MTA started receiving funds from toll surpluses, it went to good use. Also the capital plan has to be signed off on by the Governor, Mayor and both state houses. That sounds great Gene, that is a great wall of protection that we have installed to prevent abuse of the system. However, this is still New York and despite your best efforts, I still find that the money dedicated to improving our transit system can still be used for "maintenance" purposes.

Why is that? Well, for starters, having maintenance for the NY transit system would technically be an improvement.