Ever wait 20 minutes for a crosstown bus, then have four show up in a row?
Ever been addressed in a surly manner by a station booth clerk, then shunted over to a bank of malfunctioning, credit card-swallowing MetroCard machines?
Ever been accosted by an aggressive subway panhandler, who “really doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but hasn’t eaten in days (but no food, thanks–just cash).”
I have. And so have you.
You know who hasn’t?
This week, the MTA launches yet another series of public hearings on fare hikes, in what seems to have become an annual event (“Fleece Week?”)
But instead of the MTA board hosting another round of bogus listening tours, I believe there is a much better way for them to learn to budget correctly. They must be mandated to ride the subways and buses with us.
This should become part of the vetting process. Are you willing to get around the city not by limo or taxi, but on the transit system you oversee?
Only when their decisions impact their own day-to-day lives, lateness and stress levels with the MTA board get their priorities straight.
Board members who refuse this stipulation, who think they are too busy or important to ride public transportation, can hit the road back to the upscale suburban communities in which most of them reside.
Whatever you think of Mayor Bloomberg, at least he rides the subway to work each day. That’s why his remarks about the transit system usually ring true–he walks the walk (ok, rides the ride).
But until that glorious day when the city runs it own public transportation, forcing those who make decisions for us to have to live by them is clearly a step in the right direction.
It may be a shock to MTA chairman Jay Walder ($350,000 yearly salary) and his well-compensated board members, but more than a few subway riders already spend between 5% and 10% of their salaries just getting to and from work.
In 2005, the supposedly cash-strapped MTA was ready to hand over valuable property it owned on Manhattan’s west side to the New York Jets for a paltry $300 million–land that was appraised at nearly $1 billion.
Recent revelations of the board ignoring out-of-control overtime pay doesn’t indicate that they’ve gotten their act together when it comes to wasting money.
So before they approach us, hat in hand, aggressively panhandling for yet another fare hike, these gross errors need to be fully accounted for. But first, I’d like to escort MTA board members down the Times Square 1, 2 and 3 platform during a sweltering rush hour, hot, airless, teeming with people and ripe for disaster.
I believe only when the board’s dubious decisions affect them personally will they truly learn what is wasteful, what is vital and what really does hurt us.