THE COMMUTE: The major news is the new state budget, which includes a $30 million raid on transit funds approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It could have been worse. The original proposed budget requested $40 million of transit funds to be used instead, to pay off the debt for MTA bonds, a responsibility of the state, not the MTA.
As reported in 2011, the governor is “No Friend of Transit.” Equally disturbing is MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast’s statement to the press that “Our needs are being met” in this Daily News article. Gene Russianoff of the Straphanger’s Campaign also criticized Prendergast for not taking a stronger position against the raid.
Second Avenue Sagas (SAS) and Streetsblog go into more detail. The only thing I can add to these articles is that the MTA’s reluctance to say anything negative about the governor is nothing new. Prendergast has his reasons for making the statement he did, and to criticize him as SAS and Streetsblog did, without knowing his reasons, is a little unfair. What if the amount of the raid was reduced from $40 million to $30 million, in exchange for Prendergast’s statement of support? Would his statement still be wrong?
Now, every transit advocate and a good portion of the public know about Albany’s continual raids of transit funds. That was not the case back in 2010 when the MTA proposed its massive service cutbacks, the effects of which are still being felt today. The cause was attributed to the MTA’s deficit, but not to Albany’s reduced support of the MTA.
At the Brooklyn public hearing of March 2010, speaker after speaker criticized the MTA for the proposed cutbacks. Some of those speakers were state lawmakers who voted for a reduced MTA budget. Not once at that hearing did a single MTA official on the dais tell the public that their anger was misdirected. That their anger should have been directed at the state and not the MTA because it was the state’s reduced funding that was the cause of the MTA’s budgetary problems. MTA officials just sat there and accepted all the blame as the state’s whipping boy. Would they have been dismissed or demoted if they let the cat out of the bag? So why should we expect Prendergast to behave differently today?
A Change To Alternate Side Of The Street Parking?
Don’t hold your breath. Last week Councilman Ydonis Rodriguez proposed sensible legislation permitting drivers to park as soon as the street sweeper passes. In some neighborhoods, drivers remain in their cars, double parked until the regulations end. The passing of this legislation would save residents countless minutes, which translate into many dollars. This proposed legislation, which went nowhere in 2010, is likely to have the same fate.
One must ask what is the purpose of alternate side parking (ASP)? Is it to keep the streets clean or is it to raise revenue for the city? If it is the former, then areas without ASP, such as some areas within Sheepshead Bay, would be noticeably dirtier. Streets in densely populated areas, such as Park Slope, would have become intolerably dirty during the three months in which ASP was suspended entirely a couple of years ago to facilitate the erection of new ASP signage. Guess what? The streets of Park Slope were no dirtier during the ASP suspension than when ASP was in effect. Also, the streets in Sheepshead Bay without ASP are no dirtier than the streets with ASP.
So the larger question is do any neighborhoods even need ASP, and if so how often should the streets be cleaned? Can it be reduced to once every other week, or even once a month? Why are ASP regulations as brief as 30 minutes on some streets and as lengthy as three hours on others? Does Manhattan Beach, for example, which is always complaining about Kingsborough College students blocking driveways because of inadequate parking, really need ASP four times a week with three-hour prohibitions when 90 minutes is now the norm in most neighborhoods?
No one is asking these questions. The proposed legislation is just common sense, and is not rocket science. It also is not a revelation. I was asking the same question more than 40 years ago and I am sure I was not the only one. The reason why it most likely will not happen is that it would result in less revenue for the city due to fewer summonses being issued.
Regardless, if the city claims increased safety from red light and speed cameras, or cleaner streets due to ASP, the major reason for these measures is the revenue they generate. More summonses should result in lower taxes but do not and are viewed as a fairer way to raise revenue since only violators pay. However when summonses are unfairly meted out, such as when someone throws a recyclable item in your general trash, and you are ticketed, or if you receive a summons for double parking because someone is in the process of leaving a parking space and you are waiting for it, then fines are no different than taxes.
Remember former City Councilman Michael Nelson’s proposed legislation to require Sanitation Enforcement Agents to take photographs of violations when surveillance video showed them not even opening a trash bag to see if recyclables were inside and issuing a summons anyway for not recycling? That legislation never passed because too much revenue would have been lost.
If the purpose of ASP regulations is to keep the streets clean, why shouldn’t you be able to park after the sweeper has passed? Why should you have to sit another 30 minutes in your car or bypass that parking space? The only possible reason is so more summonses can be issued. If this legislation does not pass the City Council or if it is vetoed by the mayor, it would yet be another example of government hypocrisy.
If by some miracle, this legislation is approved, it would be a big win for city residents.
Tomorrow: Speed cameras, a new B44 SBS schedule, and more.
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).
Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at]sheepsheadbites [dot]com.