Extended Public Speech — MTA Capital Hearing

September 12th, 2017 4:45 PM

A Hashtag Roundup reply to the campaign #ScaryStoryInFiveWords, this is a cornerstone statement of the lack of progress at the MTA in its five decade history.

Good evening, my name is Eric Shields, a resident from City Council District 41. I am also known online as the Mass Transit Honchkrow, but Eric is just fine.

On April 4, 2017, an uptown (A) train derailed in the vicinity of the above station due to spare tracks of an incorrect length left on the tracks, which sent several cars into the tunnel wall and a woman to the hospital with a broken neck. The Mayor and Governor were notably absent.

Mass transit here in the boroughs has reached a tipping point. One wrong move, be it natural, fiscal or bureaucratic, could send us to a period of time far worse than anyone who lived through the seventies could imagine. Drop dead moments have already been happening.

The transit network has been disenfranchised for decades, long before either Cuomo or Pataki, and in a vicious tug of war between competing interests whose antics have robbed the system of assets and much needed expansion.

The MTA’s very creation was to make it easy to pass responsibility in an endless bureaucratic loop, making it difficult to hold a particular person or entity responsible for transit failures.

Riders Alliance has the right idea in #CuomosMTA, but they need to understand that groups like theirs are the very thing that has undermined public transit initiatives, and not for the reasons you think.

Compromise is essential for any initiative to move forward. The MTA should build stations faster. The MTA should have an updated signal system. The MTA should really stop putting dead bodies in the break rooms so the living can retain their lunch. But these things cost money.

Several dozen billionaires call New York City home. However, you can’t make a standard pitch to them, let alone impose the idea of a millionaire’s tax. Having lived in Westchester and being invited to partake in civic functions on occasion, their mindset is justified.

During the MTA’s 2016 fiscal year, two fare increase options were weighed, one of them raising the fare to $3. While the fare remained the same, unlimited MetroCards, LIRR/MNR tickets saw a 4 to 9 percent increase on March 19th that year.

If you want to show the plight of public transit, you need to make advocacy and storytelling a regular occurrence, not just a cliche horror story compilation that only hits the tip of the iceberg. There are pains that a person must actually experience.

The rich can be moved by a cause if it rallys people together instead of pointing fingers. Despite Robert Moses’ scorched earth construction ideology, it is because of him that (A) train service is available in the Rockaways. If you apply the right kind of argument everyone can win.

New York City, regardless of income, upbringing, or career choice, thrives on a working transit system, and if it fails, it can displace everyone, rich and poor. There’s no point in indulgence if there’s nothing left to indulge in.

In parting, I’d like to recite a poem, spun off from “The Lord’s Prayer”:

Our MTA, through tragic lessons, hours late but no shame
why do you run, point fingers at everyone,
about who pays, as if you’re seven.
Give us this day, a better way to pay,
and clean up your debt, lest you incur the wrath of your debtors.
And lead our grandstanding governor, away from his gold digging temptations,
so we may be the power, the kingmakers, and the glory, and the envy, of mass transit now and forever.

Amen.