I am not a fan of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, except insofar as I reluctantly admire the agency for keeping up an astounding level of venality and incompetence pretty much 24/7/365 throughout the whole of my lifetime. Credit where credit is due, after all.
The MTA is now in the process of foisting through a new fare increase, despite being caught at the last minute with a surplus in this year’s budget mounting to the hundreds of millions of dollars. (“Samovar? What samovar?”) The last time they tried this, just over a year ago, they were caught keeping two sets of books, lying wholesale about their budgets and projections, hiding money like little Enron wannabes, and disregarding the will of the public and the government in their moves-in-mysterious-ways machinations.
As a reward for their dishonesty, secrecy, illegal accounting and brutal abuse of the public trust, the Transit Authority was allowed its fare increase, more or less without comment, which sort of reminds me of a recent national election. The NYCTA board was not disbanded, nor seized, nor arrested. They probably gave themselves a raise, though if they did we wouldn’t likely know about it. Who would tell? In fact, after a brisk search I’m unable to find an online listing of Transit Authority board salaries, although of course those numbers should be public. No surprise there. If you know what they make for our troubles, please point me toward a good link in the comments and I’ll include the information here — thanks.
In any case, today the City Council discovered what millions already knew: Staten Island is hard to get to. If you’re not local, Staten Island is a bit of rural topography that accidentally got stuck to New York on January 21, 1898; it is known chiefly as the on-ramp to New Jersey (that’s Jersey on the left). I get my hair cut there, when I get my hair cut. The ferry ride to and from Staten Island is free, which makes little fiscal sense but is nice in the summertime.
A local survey of ferry rider numbers — the State Department of Transportation forgot to get actual ridership figures for the last, well, ever, basically — says there aren’t enough boats in the morning and evening rush-hour rushes, which ought to surprise no one. The other pressing bit of detail is that the 12:30 a.m. boat, which is the last to leave Manhattan at night before the schedule drops to once-per-hour, is packed solid, often so solid that some StIslanders have to wait for the next ride an hour later (the biggest boats, the Barberi-Class Andrew J. Barberi and Samuel I. Newhouse, carry 6,000 passengers apiece; other models in the fleet are smaller).
Now, if you were running the Transit Authority, or if I were running the Transit Authority, we’d have a second boat scrambled tonight — tonight — to handle the overflow. We’d shoot off a fiery screed to Governor “New York City? Yes, I’ve heard of it” Pataki demanding emergency funds for the boat, and we’d schedule an extra run or two as part of the next route revisions. Perhaps, since we were already stealing money from the public, we’d generously plan on allocating some of the spoils to improve that late service, and actually, you know, do our jobs.
My guess? They’ll revise late-night ferry service late in the weary run to the next mayoral election, not before. Certainly not this week, or next, or any time soon after that. Oh, and the fare hike? The public resoundingly said No at a series of pointless hearings, and local government flat-out concluded that the Authority hasn’t shown need to raise the cost and can’t be trusted at this point anyway. So they are going ahead with it. After all, that’s what passes for a “mandate” these days, isn’t it?