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Radials Blog » Joe Lhota’s Smart Pragmatism at the MTA

Joe Lhota’s Smart Pragmatism at the MTA

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota’s interview on this morning Brian Lehrer show (listen here) wasn’t exactly earth shattering: he talked about the potential fare hike scenarios, expressed his desire to make the MTA into the best transit system in the world (again), and offered some vague visions of the future. These interviews don’t really rise above local politics, though you’d be forgiven if you considered New York City transit policy a regional issue with national implications. Mr. Lhota was speaking to the daily riders who are worried about rising fare costs while simultaneously trying to convince them that the MTA is still one of the most effective transit systems in the world, not to mention one of the cheapest in the post-industrial world.

But then Joe threw some in this corner of the blogosphere a pretty significant bone: he talked about lengthening stations as an alternative to significant capital programs! And modernizing signal structures!

I’ll be honest that I’m not sure how lengthening stations improves service (I’m assuming Second Ave. Sagas or Cap’n Transit probably has a better idea than I do) but the fact that Mr. Lhota offered up something that is not only pragmatic but also achievable in such a hostile funding climate was sort of revelatory. Listen, everyone wants more service and better service and cheaper service, but at the end of the day that just isn’t a reality. Yes, Albany has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from dedicated MTA coffers, and yes, City Hall hasn’t increased transit funding since the first Clinton administration, but unfortunately there is no financial capacity to do anything additive outside of the Second Ave. subway.

Modernizing the MTA with incremental improvements like fixing the signaling structure (which would make trains come more frequently for all you rabble rousers out there) is a great step in the right direction and shows that Joe Lhota understand his constraints and is able to work within them with elegance and nuance. We’re all upset about the fare hike but I’m ok with an extra quarter going towards real improvements in the system.

Now if only Albany would stop messing everything else up for transit riders we could actually get somewhere.

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