Friday, March 25, 2005

When You're Late, Call Albany

The New York Times
March 25, 2005

When You're Late, Call Albany

The last two months have not been friendly to New York's subway riders. Stalls, detours - any wise commuter now knows not to go into a subway station without a good book. Looking for someone to blame? Well, the people with the power to do something about it are making critical decisions this moment in Albany.

Right now, New York's lawmakers are haggling about how much of the $106-billion-plus budget should go for transportation. The debate is between upstate legislators who want money for roads and bridges versus downstate lawmakers who want to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fix its subways. The real fight, of course, is who should pay.

The state's mission has to be saving the core services of the authority. This is not a narrow, parochial matter about New York City; this is basic to the health of New York State. If these commuters cannot get to work, the New York City economy suffers. And if you start pulling the plug on the city, the state economy starts heading down the drain.

An additional source of revenue must be found, and the choice should be based on what is fair, not who has the most high-powered lobbyist. Some of the more reasonable options are a tax on new cars, a motor vehicle registration tax or a surcharge on real estate transfer taxes for sales of properties over $1 million.

These revenues should first pay for the fundamentals before they finance any additions to the subways. The hundreds of thousands of riders who have been late to work in the last few months can tell the Legislature that you don't start adding rooms to a house that badly needs fixing.