Maybe Another Time

For years commuters have felt no one on the MTA Board truly understands what they go through on a fairly regular basis when riding any part of the current transit system. Within that same period some have called on current & past political leaders to consider adding a working class commuter to the MTA Board. The idea continues to float around as the Long Island Rail Road Commuters Council recently wrote a letter to Gov. Patterson to consider such an appointment. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has the story:

An MTA advisory panel has floated a novel idea to Gov. Paterson: Appoint regular rail riders to the board.

“There are quite a few [current board members] who don’t ride mass transit on a regular basis,” said Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter’s Council.

Bringmann said the group wants Paterson to appoint “someone who feels our pain and is in the trenches with us; someone who knows what it’s like to be on a train without air conditioning or on a platform where messages are garbled or nonexistent.”

The council, part of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, expressed its view in a letter to Paterson, who must fill a vacancy caused by the death of Frances Powers. The missive was prompted by recent comments by David Mack, chairman of the MTA’s Long Island Rail Road committee, who said he rides the train a handful of times a year – and only because he doesn’t have to pay.

MTA divisions are currently preparing their preliminary 2009 spending plans amid high fuel costs and declining tax revenues. The reports include how the various divisions will meet a prior directive to cut spending by 6% over four years, starting next year when savings must total about $80 million.

The idea seems like a good one in principal due to the gap between leadership & the people it serves. History has shown that MTA Board members are so out of touch with everyday commuters, it is no wonder they do not know how to manage/maintain a system needed by said commuters. However with saying that, a legitimate concern does get ousted into the spotlight if such an appointment was to be made.

As great of an idea as this might be, can an everyday commuter really capable of doing the job? Anytime commuters hear about a fare hike, they immediately blame the MTA & how it is ridiculous that their fare payments do not cover all the costs. While in simple terms it might make sense to look at it from that angle, in reality we know there is more to the MTA’s finances beyond fare collection. Fare collection has never been the backbone of the agency’s income. If it was, it would be impossible to have the service in place that they do now.

I seriously question if an everyday commuter would be able to understand all the pieces that make up the MTA from top to bottom. They are just commuters who only know about the system they use & not all the policies in place that run it from behind the scenes. Unfortunately now is not the time to place an amateur in such a high position. It would truly be like throwing a fresh piece of meat into a lion’s cage as it would be devoured within seconds. Maybe when things are more in order can such an idea be seriously looked into.

If anything I would suggest for now, they consider a panel of educated riders who know enough about the system & how it works to come together & pitch possible ideas. Add in a mix of transit advocates to the mix & we could see something good come out of it.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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