THE COMMUTE: This past week the MTA unveiled a series of progressive initiatives, including additional restorations of service that were cut in June 2010. Prior to those service reductions, the media paid little attention to them. The headlines mainly revolved around the MTA’s plan to cut student fares. It wasn’t until years later, when the impacts were fully felt, that public outcry began and service restorations were made. The first round included the return of the truncated portions of the B4 and B64 — which were not replaced by other routes — earlier this year.
Archive for the tag 'op-eds'
The following is an op-ed submitted by Stephen Shafer, chairperson of the Coalition Against Gambling in NY.
In November, New York voters will have a referendum on whether the state’s constitution should be amended to permit up to seven new commercial casinos. Voters will be the target of pro-casino public relations output filled with buzzwords like “jobs” and “economic development.” These misinformation campaigns won’t reveal the vast cost of New York’s current gambling problem and why Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan, if enacted, will make it worse.
They also won’t reveal how all New Yorkers will eventually be on the hook to pay, without realizing it, the bill due from the dark side of the governor’s plan.
Pathological and problem gambling combined already costs New York taxpayers a quantifiable $3.7 billion dollars a year, besides unquantifiable havoc like family breakup or suicide. Voters should be told in depth how the governor’s plan will affect state taxpayers overall.
Yet politicians promoting casinos as public policy do not give constituents the information needed for an informed decision. No surprise. Looking at New York’s state-sponsored gambling program (the Lottery), it’s clear that for the past 40 years Albany has downplayed the impacts of problem gambling and promoted predatory gambling under the pretext of “state aid to education.”
Governor Cuomo’s recent proposal that newly legalized casinos carve out for treatment and prevention more funding than has previously been available is a token gesture. Without a legislative commitment to provide truly adequate funding, his proposed ante ($500/yr per slot or table game) shows that the state is not committed to repair decades of neglect.
Part of being responsible is deciding what you want, and paying for it. But for decades Albany has decided that some New Yorkers (not just problem gamblers but their families and associates) are expendable, collateral damage from its gambling policies.
Four percent of adults generate 50 percent of revenues: this is the keystone statistic of the casino industry.
Those four percent are gamblers addicted or verging on addiction. Let’s not pretend casinos truly want to stop all problem gambling – what for-profit business would agree to cut its profits by 50 percent?
There are other features of the casino business model to consider before referendum. Almost every problem and pathological gambler uses the money of trusting non-gamblers, abusing personal relationships. Anyone (they are not few) who thinks the gamblers deserve their misery needs to look beyond that to the gamblers’ spouses and partners, children, parents, siblings, associates, bankers, insurance agents, neighbors, friends. Innocent victims or dupes, they don’t deserve the misery that predatory gambling visits on them “for aid to education.”
A vote for the amendment is a vote to inflict more pain on these fellow citizens.
Stephen Q. Shafer, MD, MPH, is the chairperson of Coalition Against Gambling in NY, a non-profit founded to oppose any expansion of legalized gambling in New York. He was a faculty member at Columbia University and a clinical professor of neurology at Harlem Hospital Center until his retirement in 2010.
BETWEEN THE LINES: The Supreme Court gaveth a day after it tooketh away.
Less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it — sort of — righted justice by an identical 5-4 margin when it ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and affirmed equal protection to same-sex couples and their families in states that legislate it. As a result, same-sex married couples are now entitled to the rights and benefits, such as Social Security, that are guaranteed to married heterosexual couples.
The vote came, coincidentally, just a couple of days before the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that erupted in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan, which sparked the establishment of the Gay Liberation Front and drew attention to the oppression of gays, a turning point in gay rights history.
The decision noted that DOMA created and endorsed a two-tier system that basically designated same-sex couples “as second class” citizens, which violated their Fifth Amendment right to equal protection.
THE COMMUTE: Two weeks ago, I reported on the TWU’s concern for rider and employee safety. However, according to Channel 2 News, instead of focusing on some of the problems regarding safety, such as the accuracy of crime statistics — a major concern among the prospective mayoral candidates — the transit police are endangering rider safety by arresting and jailing riders overnight for infractions that are usually dealt with by handing out summonses.
Have you ever walked between subway cars at the terminal in Brighton Beach? Not only should that not be illegal because it is not dangerous, it can subject you to a $75 fine or, worse yet, land you in jail. So don’t do it unless your life is in danger. However, that is not even the worst of it. When questioned by Channel 2 News, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had the audacity to defend the arresting officers, calling this a good police practice. And this man was actually asked to run for mayor?
THE COMMUTE: Subway, bus, and railroad fares, as well as tolls for bridges and tunnels operated by the MTA, are all higher. The new subway and bus fare went into effect yesterday while the higher railroad fare took effect on Friday.
The new fare and toll prices can be found on links from the MTA’s home page. The base subway and bus fare is now $2.50 for a one way trip. Weekly and monthly unlimited passes are also higher. Are these higher fares and tolls fair? No. Were they necessary? You will have to decide that for yourself.
As mayoral candidate John Liu stated at the recent mayoral debate on transit issues, transit needs an ongoing revenue stream. As candidate Bill Thompson stated, we need to fund transit fairly, it needs to be more affordable and existing dollars need to be spent correctly. And as candidate Tom Allon stated, we need to think of more creative financing.
I couldn’t agree more with those statements.
In a previous article, I also asked the question: What’s A Fair Fare? I highlighted the need for a time-based fare rather than one that is vehicle-based and the need for free transfers between local, limited Select Buses, whereby those transfers do not preclude you from receiving a second transfer to another local, express bus or subway. The MTA must also re-institute its longstanding policy that service changes will not result in the necessity of extra fares.
We cannot continue to raise fares and tolls every two years or more frequently — it is not a long-term solution, especially when New Yorkers already pay for a higher portion of transit costs through the fare than any other major city. Sooner or later our elected officials will have to recognize that. I really have nothing more to say on the subject.
If you want to read more about what this new fare hike means to you, I suggest you read Ben Kabak’s article on Second Avenue Sagas.
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.
The first half of the conference addressed safety, both for transit employees as well as passengers. It is an issue that has been in the headlines recently and is a major concern for both parties.
The union implied that the number of passengers falling onto the tracks is increasing, stating that four people fell just during the past week. They did not mention their heavily criticized plan to slow down trains to make the subways safer. This issue was also not addressed further by the panelists.
Union officials mentioned that in 2010, there were the most service cuts ever, and also the most incidents of employee assaults. The question asked was: Is there a correlation between the 2010 service cuts and the rise in incidents of employee assaults?
The event was well-attended and the conference was run well, with time limits respected. There were some microphone issues, and the table was barely long enough to accommodate all seven panelists, with Thompson (seated at the far left) remarking about how little table he had.
Comptroller John Liu commented on bus schedules not being realistic. Although traffic is probably considered in developing schedules, I agree that many schedules are unrealistic. Insufficient consideration is given to heavy passenger loadings and to wheelchairs, both of which delay buses. If the schedule does not necessarily allow for it, a bus can lose up to 15 minutes or more on a single trip if more than one passenger in a wheelchair needs to be accommodated.
In response to the recent school bus driver strike, the moderator suggested that the MTA take over yellow school bus operations without any mention of the financial ramifications that it would cause. MTA workers are paid much more than school bus drivers and no revenue is obtained from the passengers, so such a move could be detrimental to the MTA’s finances without an increase in the city’s contribution to the MTA.
This was stated as a matter of fact — as something that just needs to be done. No candidate addressed that issue. There was little interaction between the panelists other than a slightly heated discussion between two participants regarding allowing non-medallion taxi street hails.
THE COMMUTE: Last Friday I attended a discussion held at the City University of New York with mayoral hopefuls Sal Albanese, Tom Allon, Adolpho Carrion (Allon and Carrion are both seeking the Republican nomination), Bill de Blasio, John Liu, Christine Quinn, and Bill Thompson all in attendance. Former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, also seeking the Republican nomination, was not in attendance. The big question is: Why? This article sheds some light why he was not present.
The candidates answered most of the questions rather than sideswiping the issues, as we all too often see in political debates. One exception was the very first question about groping attacks on women in which the candidates used their time to make their opening remarks instead. The other questions asked of the panel were:
- Is there a correlation between the 2010 service cuts and the rise in incidents of employee assaults?
- New York City currently funds mass transit with .2 percent of its budget. As mayor, would you increase that funding amount to one percent?
- How would you reduce New York City’s carbon footprint?
There was a greater interest in improving and expanding bus service than subway service. Three candidates were in favor of building light rail and only Liu mentioned expanding the subway system in the long term. There was also much interest in ferries and the need to pay more attention to the outer boroughs.
THE COMMUTE: Regular readers of “The Commute” know that one of my favorite topics is bus bunching, because it has always been the number one concern of bus riders and very little is done to combat it. That may be changing. Most likely you have already heard about BusTime, but chances are you have not heard about BusTrek.
BusTime is the new GPS bus tracking system already in effect on the B61 (Columbia Street and Lorraine Street) and B63 (Fifth Avenue) routes in Brooklyn, and in all of the Bronx and Staten Island. It has been heavily publicized by the MTA as the way to know when the next bus is arriving. I have criticized the MTA because it will only be available to those who use smart phones, which excludes many seniors. The MTA scrapped plans to also install displays at bus shelters, informing passengers of the next arriving bus, as other cities such as Chicago do.
THE COMMUTE: In Part 1, I discussed the various Select Bus Service corridors presently in operation and how their success or lack thereof has not been adequately measured. In Part 2, I mentioned one corridor — Flatlands Avenue / Avenue P — that has not been selected where I believe there is significant potential for it to work well. I also discussed other corridors where it will just be a poor substitute for needed rail lines.
This is not a series against SBS. It works on Fordham Road, may work on Hylan Boulevard after it is fully implemented, and would work, if implemented where it is needed, on Flatlands Avenue. In Manhattan, the reaction has been mixed. It will not work well when not implemented in conjunction with necessary local bus reroutings. In the Nostrand Avenue corridor, the B44 SBS will result in a glut of unnecessary bus service on Rogers Avenue.