When construction companies don’t have competition, and when they have the Albany politicians in their pocket, they don’t have any incentive to reduce costs. Therefore, costs balloon. Workers are paid to do nothing. Contractors hire hundreds of outside consultants for dubious reasons. The MTA, with its opaque, intractable bureaucracy, does not help the situation. Sometimes it will change its plans in the middle of a project. It struggles to coordinate between contractors. Projects aren’t managed efficiently, and costs go up.
The MTA should do two things. First, it should encourage more competition among contractors for projects and try to attract bids from companies beyond its usual pool of two or three donor-heavy firms. Second, it should manage projects more efficiently, communicating and coordinating between separate contractors to keep costs under control. That way, it could actually make the upgrades (like CBTC) to the system that it needs without breaking the bank. This can only be accomplished in one way:
Contrary to popular belief, the subway system is not actually run by the city. The MTA is run by state government, particularly Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has consistently shown that he is more interested in using the subway to score political points than he is interested in fixing it. He, and countless governors before him, has taken money away from the MTA to pay for other pet projects. Cuomo infamously once used $5 million of MTA money to bail out ski resorts upstate. He is more interested in flashy new technology than making sure the subway actually functions properly. Under his leadership, the system has installed Wi-Fi and USB ports in stations that have track signals dating back to the Hoover administration.
Frankly, the best way to fix the problems listed in this article is to replace Cuomo with someone who cares. Control of the subway should be turned over to the city. That way, the only government accountable for the system’s functioning is the one that its riders elect. The subway has huge and far-reaching problems. Until the MTA gets its act together, those problems are only going to get worse. Things need to change, and the only way the MTA will get its act together is if the government holds it accountable.
Sean Franklin, FCRH ’21, is an urban studies major from Alexandria, Virginia.
Tags: NYC, Sean Franklin, subway, transportation
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