Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The party of no transit

Here's the latest proposal to address the transit funding crisis: make transit worse. That's right, Roe Daraio of a group called Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (Comet, get it?) wants to "help the MTA" by reducing transit frequency. You see, Maspeth has some private jitneys that do not always follow the laws and regulations. Daraio argues that the "commuter vans" are stealing passengers from the MTA buses and draining their farebox revenue.

There are numerous flaws in this argument, but the most obvious is that this proposal would reduce overall service. If you're in Maspeth and want to go into Manhattan, you probably don't care whether the bus that takes you there is run by the MTA or a private operator. You might care about price, safety and comfort, but then again you might not. If you currently rely on the jitneys to supplement the MTA schedule, then that would no longer be available to you.

If this enforcement effort were to succeed, it's highly unlikely that the MTA would increase service to make up for the reduction in frequency. COMET is certainly not asking them to. There's no evidence that they see the jitneys as providing any value whatsoever.

In fact, Comet has been waging a campaign against the jitneys for over a year, and conspicuously absent from that campaign have been the jitney customers. In their quotes you get the impression that the vans are there for the sole purpose of getting in the way of Roe Daraio's car. The group seems completely oblivious to the fact that the vans are there because their own neighbors are paying them, and they are paying because they provide value.

Keep this in mind when you hear politicians talking about giving power back to "the community." They're not talking about people like you and me, who might be sick of waiting for infrequent MTA buses. They're talking about people like Roe Daraio, whose solution to reckless jitneys is to harass them out of business, and whose solution to the MTA funding crisis is to reduce transit service. For these "community activists," transit users don't exist or matter, and the more power they have, the less services we'll get.


Queens Crapper said...

So are we to assume that Cap'n Transit agrees with:

1) Poaching mass transit customers
2) Unlicensed vans with no insurance
3) Fraud perpetrated by the owners of these companies who purport that their vehicles are small than they are which allows them to pay lower insurance and registration rates
4) Livery services picking up passengers that hail them on the street instead of calling ahead, which is against TLC regulations
5) Discrimination by drivers of these vans against anyone who is not Asian
6) Vans operating outside of their approved zones, without required community board approval.

Because that is what is going on. And you sound like a gigantic dunce for saying COMET or any other group that has complained about this should just close their eyes and keep their mouths shut.

Educate yourself and you'll be singing a different tune.

P.S. Roe Daraio doesn't own a car and has commuted her entire life by bus.

Cap'n Transit said...

Aha, welcome, Crapper!

Thank you for letting me know that Daraio doesn't own a car. That makes it all the more unfortunate that her crusade against the commuter vans is based, as she describes it, on the driving experiences of her neighbors.

As with any violation of the law, I think it's important to distinguish between good laws and bad laws. I don't approve of vans violating laws requiring specific levels of insurance, licensing and fees. But I don't think that the laws about street hails are appropriate, and I certainly don't support laws requiring community board approval to operate a van.

A Maspeth resident that I know, who is white, told me that she has regularly commuted in the vans and never felt discriminated against. If there is discrimination, it is inconsistent, but I would like to hear about it.

"Poaching" implies that the MTA owns the customers. By that argument, the LIE also poaches customers from the MTA.

I am not recommending that Comet or anyone else close their eyes and keep their mouths shut. But I don't think that they should be trying to harass the vans out of the neighborhood, either.

Instead, I would like to see them work with the van drivers and owners to ensure compliance with the law, and to change the law as necessary to provide adequate transit to Maspeth residents. Anyone who does that in good faith has my support, and I would be happy to work with them and publicize their efforts.

George K said...

The MTA is not supposed to be making a profit.
For all you know, the people who ride the vans would resort to using a private car to get where they want to go, which would release even more pollution into the air, increase the number of cars on the road (and therefore, the number of potential accidents), and still not give the MTA money.
In fact, the MTA is most likely saving money by letting these vans operate because they don't have to run additional bus service to accomodate them. Also, since many of these routes simply connect to a more frequent transit service, such as the subway, those riders will end up paying the MTA a fare anyway. Since local buses accept free transfers, the MTA in effect receives no money from the buses anyway.