The ongoing drama surrounding the deteriorating New York subway has taken some interesting turns in the past few weeks. With rampant delays resulting from overcrowding, track fires, derailments and an arcane signaling system, straphangers calls for a fix have mostly been met with a lot of hot air.
In late June, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Joe Lhota as chairman of the MTA, and less than a week later declared a "state of emergency" for the subway. The pair then set a deadline of July 31 to drum up a plan for expediting work to fix the city's transit woes. Since then, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo and Lhota have engaged in a back-and-forth with the media as to who is actually responsible for fixing the transit system that is used by more than 5 million people every single day.
The MTA Capital Program is overseen by the MTA Board, which is appointed by Cuomo, so the fact that there's a debate as to who holds the keys for the subway system is confusing at best. The whole argument feels like a multi-billion-dollar game of hot potato, and doesn't help the riders who find themselves late for work on a regular basis as a result of an unreliable subway system.
In the past few weeks, Lhota and Cuomo have both asserted that New York State is not responsible for paying for the subway system, and that it is the city's responsibility to shoulder the cost for its operation and upgrades. Over the weekend, de Blasio held a press event on the F train and fired back, saying that Lhota's comments make absolutely no sense.
On Monday, the mayor went a step further, issuing a press release titled "What New York City Riders Deserve From Governor Cuomo's Subway Turnaround Plan." The statement reads like a watered down version of Martin Luther's "95 Theses," and includes all of the vague, broad language that New Yorkers have come to expect from their local politicians.
De Blasio's release is essentially a list of five demands for Cuomo, Lhota and the MTA: Provide immediate relief for riders, be more transparent when it comes to performance standards, hold MTA officials accountable, reallocate funds towards "core needs" and more "meaningful" financial contributions from the state.
"These are basic steps that are required of public agencies everywhere," the statement says.
Who knows, maybe the MTA will release a comprehensive, actionable plan to bring the New York City subway system into the 21st century come August 1.
We're not holding our breath.