Friday, January 16, 2009

Who Will Save the Z?

Our friends at the Empire State Transportation Alliance have conducted another action protesting the planned MTA cuts: a mock funeral for the Z train. I think we can safely assume that similar actions are in store for the W, and probably for the truncated M and G lines and the bus lines that are also targeted.

I'm puzzled as to why the Alliance, Gene Russianoff in particular, agreed to share a lectern with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has publicly opposed the idea of tolling the East River bridges. Markowitz's suggested alternatives may have merit, but unless he can persuade someone to implement them, his opposition to bridge tolls is working against any solution to the budget cuts, and anything he says in support of the J train is just hot air.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer hasn't opposed the toll proposal, and last year supported congestion pricing, but he's still shown a disappointing lack of leadership on this issue, preferring to criticize the MTA for where they chose to place the cuts instead of taking a strong stand in favor of bridge tolls and thereby heading off the need for any cuts.

No sign of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall at the event. She was quick to condemn the Ravitch Commission proposals. Maybe she doesn't care about Z train riders.

Tuesday we saw one of Assembly Speaker Silver's famous maddening moments: after stalling and ultimately killing congestion pricing last summer, he blithely told NY1's Bobby Cuza that the city could transfer the bridges to the MTA with "no legislation required." Well, why didn't he say that in July? Sadly, there are probably lots of people out there who would just assume that these are completely unrelated issues. In any case, this statement from Silver is a big deal (as noted by Second Avenue Sagas), and it seems to have been completely forgotten since then.

So if Silver is right and "the city" can just go ahead and sell or lease the bridges to the MTA, is this something the Mayor can do, or does the City Council have to act? It'd be nice if someone (like Cuza) had asked a lawyer about it. Whether or not it requires Council approval, certainly a little pressure from various city council members would help to push it along.

Getting back to the Z train, it's nice that the two borough presidents showed up, but it'd be nice if some of the city council members whose districts the line goes through were there too, and it'd be nicer if the ESTA were willing to put them on the line for this. As far as I can tell, none of them were at the event. Some have decried the MTA cuts in general and particular bus lines, but not so much the Z train. None of them have taken a public position on the Ravitch Commission recommendations. Here, for your reading pleasure, are the City Council members in order by number of Z train stops in or near their districts.

Addabbo2Addabbo is now in State Senate; seat vacant
Gennaro1May be elected to State Senate
Barron1This firebrand has been conspicuously silent on the whole issue.

Finally, third track, anyone?

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