Politicians should be pushing for serious procurement and labor work rule reforms, otherwise the systemic managerial and operational deficiencies will ensure that the deterioration of service we see now will repeat it self in 5 to 10 years, regardless of how much money or technology is poured into the MTA.
London and Toronto have been able to modernize much of their transit systems in last 5 years and its not because they have more money. Once you fix the top everything else will fall into place.
Look what Andy Byford has been able to do in 4 short years at the TTC. His 5-Year Plan to modernize the TTC focused on transforming corporate culture and updating internal processes, in addition to new equipment. The results of these changes have been overwhelmingly positive with the TTC recently being named best public transit agency in North America and The TR Class of TTC subway cars in May having a MDBF of over 924,000 miles.
If your interested in getting involved with transit activism in NYC I highly suggest you follow @2AvSagas on twitter.
Most airports, most of the interstate highway network, most subway systems, bridges, tunnels, and dams were built from the 1930s and on to the 1970s. The railroads are even older.
And after that; Silence. It's like you didn't even care to maintain it.
First time I arrived in America, I was taken aback by how old and run down everything was. The only places in Europe I had seen worse roads were in Eastern Europe shortly after the fall of the Wall. In the middle of Manhattan some streets were in a state that in Europe you would only witness in the Balkans or in rural areas. The airports and the link from airports to the city were even worse. The subways didn't even have info tables saying when the next train would arrive. At the same time in Europe, many cities were switching to driver-less trains.
Clearly, the US could afford to expand and maintain the infrastructure. And the US is usually on the forefront of technology. So it's about priority, more than ability. Public infrastructure is just not prioritized that much in the US.
Not all infrastructure consists of roads, bridges, and tunnels.
I agree with the parent poster that infrastructure like roads, drainage systems, and passenger trains are built with minimal planning for maintenance and support, but it is worth remembering that those systems aren't the end of the story.
Train usage in particular is a misleading complaint. It's true that the US has worse passenger train support than many nations, but that largely comes down to a sensible cost-benefit choice. The US isn't especially well-suited to train travel - lots of obstacles, diffuse populations that require branching tracks or non-train final steps, long distance travel that requires sleeper cars. So instead, we have an exceptionally large amount of freightage on trains. It's a vastly more natural use - scheduled, hub-to-hub transit, bulky products, no need for food/sleep provisioning - but it's less visible so it disappears from the conversation.
You are right that the US has lower population density than most of Europe, but Canada doesn't and it doesn't have the same lack of infrastructure maintenance as the US.
Population maps of the US  and Canada  highlight the problem with this argument, though. Canada has low total density, but it's overwhelmingly concentrated around the southern border of the country. The US concentrates population along three coastlines and the Great Lakes, and has more population to support in the low-concentration areas. (For example, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas exist.)
So southern Canada has better-than-US infrastructure at higher-than-US population density, while much of northern Canada has exceedingly limited infrastructure. Outside of Alaska, there's no territory in the US comparably written-off to much of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
An example: US highways are nationwide , while Canadian highways simply stop . And despite the look of that projection, that's more than a quarter of Canada which is further from a highway than any point in the continental US.
So - on a state by state / province by province basis, Americans live more close together than Canadians and should have better opportunity for maintaining infrastructure.
And just like Canadians tend to cram together close to the coasts and the Great Lakes, Americans also cram together close to the Great Lakes and their coasts. Go 50 miles inland from either coast, and it's vastly less populated than near the coast, with the rivers as an exception. Take a drive from Buffalo to NYC, and you'll see that it's populated near Buffalo (Great lakes), somewhat near Albany (Hudson river) and again once you get near NYC (East Coast). The rest of NY State is rural.
Take a look at this map of US population density by county:
30% of Canadians live in Ontario. About half of Ontarians live in the Toronto metro area alone. Overall about half the population lives in the top ten metro areas.
A single rail line from Quebec City to Winnipeg, through Ottowa, Toronto, and Calgary, with a spur to Edmonton, would cover all eleven of Canada's largest cities, with 30% of its whole population. That's within those municipalities (i.e., people can take local transit to the inter-city rail line). You cannot draw any similar line that encompasses anywhere near that percentage of the U.S. population. Even if you connected America's 11 largest cities, you'd only have about 26 million people (about 8% of the country).
A big reason is that most people who live "in Dallas," for example, don't actually live in the city. Dallas and Ottawa are similar-sized cities of about a million people each. But Ottawa encompasses 70% of its metro area, while Dallas encompasses less than 20% of its metro area. Look at a satellite map of each city. Dallas is sprawl for about 40 miles in each direction from the city center. 40 miles from Ottawa is nothing in every direction (and for the most part, so is 20 miles).
The obvious question is how many infrastructure hubs (cell towers, train stations, highways, etc.) are needed to cover X% of the population. And following that, how closely connected those hubs would be.
Suggestions like "Canadians live near the border, but Americans live near the coast so it's similar" completely ignore that reality. The Acela corridor (D.C. to Boston, including Philadelphia and NYC) is the most efficient population-coverage route I know of in the country, but it can't possibly touch the efficiency of that Quebec City to Winnipeg line. Among other things, America has two coasts, and also vastly less urban density than Canada.
I can't speak for the latter, but we took the Canadian from Vancouver-Winnipeg for a family reunion a few years back. It was a great trip, except for the 6h delay sitting just outside Winnipeg due to backed up freight traffic (I believe VIA leases access to most of the track, and has to yield to any freight trains) that meant we were getting off the train and had to find a hotel at midnight, instead of getting picked up by family at a reasonable hour.
I'm saying that the raw number isn't meaningful, and you have to zoom in to find value and evaluate it in context.
The point is that Europe did all that and more.
By the looks of it Europe just does public infrastructure better.
But to your point, I would argue that US achievements on the internet and cell networks are more impressive than Europe's because unlike Europeans Americans invented those technologies from scratch. And other than Russia, the US is the only country with a GPS infrastructure at all.
I don't dispute the claim that European nations and the EU have generally done a better job investing in public infrastructure, but I think the gap isn't as bad as some in this thread have made out, especially when you consider the vastly different conditions under which those policies were made. I've lived in a lot of countries, including the US and two European nations, and I've worked in project finance, so I have some direct experience with this. That said, the US desperately needs to invest in bridges and several other categories of infrastructure.
Wrong; there are three operational global navigation satellite systems: GPS (US), GLONASS (Russia), and Galileo (EU). China has a regional (Asia-Pacific) system that they are in the process of upgrading to global coverage, as well.
Trucks are another thing entirely, and I'd be delighted for them to be both taxed at a higher rate for road wear & tear, and to be somehow limited. But that's road design, and that's not going to be solved for a long time.
"Abuse" is the right word. Perhaps it's worth rethinking how much of this abuse we allow. Giant trucks parading through Manhattan at will, tearing up the pavement, endangering cyclists and pedestrians, and generally lowering quality of life for residents is a policy choice, not some natural and unchangeable fact about the world.
I'd actually just settle for enforcement of existing law. 53' trucks are illegal in NYC, as is driving a truck down a street that is not a truck route. The NYPD could generate a lot of income if they simply enforce the laws on the books. You constantly see 53' trucks driving around (they even literally say "53'" on the side) and no one cares... until they make a turn and get stuck and block up traffic for a mile.
Note I havent been to the south of Rome
I'm not sure the overall comparison here holds, but this is overwhelmingly true. America has made a huge amount of funding available for new infrastructure, while constantly underbudgeting (and underspending) on maintenance. The result is a steadily growing liability that would render most suburbs and many cities insolvent if depreciation were honestly accounted for. 
The founder of Strong Towns was in fact a civil engineer who started the group in a fit of remorse over doing exactly that.  Hired to repair a suburban drainage system, he realized that the maintenance was too expensive for the town to pay, and federal grants were unavailable for small-scale maintenance. So instead he found a massive grant (9x the maintenance cost) to expand and modernize the system. It covered costs, but set up a needlessly large system with vastly more costs to cover down the road.
This is basically how all urban and transit infrastructure gets done here. Partly for cultural reasons, but largely for financial ones: you can't get emergency funding for new construction, but if you spend maintenance money on upgrades and expansions, then you can go begging for emergency repair funds on what you've built. 
The Houston airport is nice — a lot of work done in the 1990s and a lot of renovation done recently funded by United Airlines. SFO is nice too. CDG in Paris is a shithole airport compared to Frankfurt and SFO and Houston. Heathrow seems pretty nice, at least Terminal 2 but they don’t compare to Seoul Incheon airport.
My point is that generalized statements about the American infrastructure aren’t generally fair since the US isn’t a monolithic organization — things vary widely due to local history. Heavily union places like NY and NJ generally have far worse infrastructure than places that aren’t so influenced by corrupt union “machine” politics. When labor bosses and the mafia have material control of infrastructure politics, you are going to have sluggish development. Another problem in New York is that’s you have seemingly dozens of agencies all stepping on each other: you have the City, the Port Authority, the states of NJ and New York, individual boroughs, multiple unions and then the Feds on top of that — and everyone in that chain has to get paid. It’s a mess.
Aside from that, Democratic party machine politics are starting to get dismantled by a wave of pissed-off progressive and tech-savvy millennials who are realizing the biggest hurdle to progress is coming from the Democratic party... Millennials have been abandoned by all the major institutions (unions, government agencies, religions, etc) so they shouldn't be surprised that we're coming for them on both sides of the aisle.
Very true, but I'd say when talking about roads, that goes for the state level in places like Texas and even down to the metropolitan level. Where I live, there are 75 mph high quality privately-managed roads close to terrible ones.
Most people may not realize what they are missing, as a result of their local/state being crippled by incompotent public management or all powerful unions, as they don't know anything different.
Not surprised to hear that it's not the case everywhere in the more decentralized US. Competence and good laws are possible. Especially when it's in a lower tax state like Texas which shows its not merely a result of lack of access to money.
Power cuts? This comment can not be taken seriously. Power cuts in the US are quite exceptional and generally concern circumstance such natural disasters or a severe heat wave. An "incredible number"? Yeah right.
I've experienced quite a number when I've been there, and it's possible that I've been very unlucky.
My office has more frequent outages, but that's due to heavy construction in the area (shouldn't happen, but it does, I guess).
All people want is lower taxes.
From what I have read, the particular issue around public transit surrounds cultural trends around city population. The middle class left cities in droves after WW2, leaving city budgets starved (I believe the MTA's ridership peaked shortly after WW2 as well). A half century of neglect can do a lot of damage to infrastructure.
Additionally, public investment in infrastructure is not expedient for politicians with a focus on the short term. Investment in the MTA could take years to reap benefits--and most riders will just remember whomever pushed that investment as the individual who closed down the L train for a year. A long term focus makes no sense whenever you just want to get elected for the next term.
Americans are YOLO. Part of me is in awe, there are rules against increasing the deficit and politicians are just wiping their ass with it.
Other countries where you see better infrastructure it’s because the national government has the power to drive the project forward (at least at the time).
Oh, and except for the perception that the USA is very leftist. Really, from a European point of view, it's quite the reverse.
Now if you look at large infrastructure projects, they are much more expensive, and proceed at a glacial pace.
Except in China, of course.
I am not trying to tell that France does better than other countries, I think it's not even close. It is just that I know it best.
I think we tend to take everything that works for granted and forget about the difficulties in the past, only talking about present issues. Maybe the convenient road you are using every day didn't exist 20 years ago, maybe it was delayed several years and went way overbudget, but now, you feel like it has always been here, only paying attention when there is a problem.
Before, someone drew a line on a map, and that was that. Any problems had to be dealt with downstream.
It's impressive what China builds - they were decades behind but times changed. A huge parts of Shanghai city were rice field until 1990. Most skyscrappers were build since 2005. And now Shanghai has probably more skyscrappers than any other city in the world. Impressive also the amount of 2 or 3 story highways and the high speed trains.
This is complete nonsense.
Any survey of New Yorkers and government services will tell you how much this matters.
The biggest problem is that the New York government at city and state levels is one of the most corrupt, oligarchic and undemocratic organizations in modern society. I cannot begin to describe how broken it is.
Here's a good example: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/nyregion/new-york-politic...
This leaves us with no levers of power over government decisions. When you take into account that the people who most heavily depend on the subway are also the poorest, we have even less power over the elected and appointed government class.
We could have voted to reform the constitution and then stayed engaged enough to pick independent delegates instead of the same old insiders catering to special interests. But we collectively let the insiders and special interests talk us out of our once in twenty years opportunity to fix this nightmare.
With the ridiculous court decisions that have been made, the governor has unlimited, nearly unchecked power via the budget process. If you are happy or unhappy with anything, credit/blame needs to be directed at whomever the governor is from Spitzer forward.
For some reason I still don't quite understand, labor unions were viciously opposed to it, supposedly because they were afraid of losing their pensions.
That's the excuse they gave, but the real reason is simple. Labor unions already wield disproportionately massive power over the legislature in NY. Any attempt to reform NY government and hold elected officials more accountable to voters would inherently weaken some of their power, by comparison.
Labor unions don't want voters to have power for the same reason elected officials don't.
They actively spread misinformation, among other things telling people that the convention would have the power to adopt amendments. Any amendment would still have to go to a direct referendum anyway, so it's not like voters wouldn't have to explicitly approve the amendments. This referendum was about starting the process - arguing against it because lobbyists might propose something bad makes no sense, unless you also forbid the legislature from proposing constitutional amendments too.
And that's why "corporate interests and lobbyists" wouldn't use this process to propose amendments benefiting their own interests, because they already have the ability to do that, through the legislature. The point of the referendum is to balance this - every twenty years, voters are supposed to have an opportunity to check thr power of lobbyists and legislators directly. Since New York doesn't do ballot initiatives the way other states do, it's the only way for New Yorkers to vote directly on statewide policy like this.
In fact, this was literally the argument they used. "Why should we pay millions of dollars for a convention, when we already have a process for amending the constitution?" Of course, this argument conveniently omits the fact that the whole reason this referendum is required to be held every twenty years is to serve as a check against special interest groups capturing legislators... which is exactly what they've already done!
Given that Citizens United is a thing and that Bob Menendez somehow wasn't convicted in a pretty cut-and-dry bribery case, I don't think I want a constitutional amendment any time soon.
Why can't people vote for the candidate of a different party? It doesn't have to be Republican. Why isn't there a "Fix the Subway" single-issue party running candidates that people can vote for?
The internal machinations of political party membership are only relevant if voters no longer have a de-facto choice on election day.
The MTA is a public authority controlled by the governor. Control was kept away from the city due to the city’s fiscal and corruption problems and the machinations of Robert Moses. The subway and busses were ultimately bailed out by the bridges and tunnels, which print money.
Public authorities are quasi-government entities controlled by the the bond covenants. You have to line-up the interests of the bond holders with whomever controls the authority and is desiring change.
With something as broad in scope and rich as MTA is such a deep well of political capital, it's incredibly unlikely that anyone would give up any control. It's such a large enterprise there probably isn't one roomful of people who actually understand how the organization works. The current situation was created when the whole NYC transit system was completely insolvent back in the bad old days!
Read "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro. It will open your eyes to why things are the way they are.
In New York, thars not the problem. The problem is that a combination of different election laws make it basically impossible to win a primary without the backing of the party leadership itself.
So, primaries in New York are meaningless; there's basically no way to unseat a candidate who's supported by the party, no matter how much they're despised.
^ Bloomberg flipped around parties for convenience of elections. In regards to this topic he would be on the conservative side given that he was constantly butting heads with the transit unions.
I'm not sure I understand this. Yes, the hand-picked successor will be able to fulfill the rest of the term, but then he's up for re-election. If people were actually outraged about this, they could vote him out the next time there's an election (just like they could have voted out the predecessor that set this process in motion). If people were really upset about corruption, they could have voted Cuomo out for killing the anti-corruption panel when it started to look in to corruption connected to him (IIRC, this happened just a few months before the 2014 primary).
It's hard for me to believe that these things really bother people when they keep voting back in the people who are doing them.
I don't know what kinds of offices are the issue wrt the MTA, but generally I have the impression that the USA could be better off with some elected offices less: an elected position is inherently unstable as far as careers go, so they appeal most to people with a bit of a gambling mindset. This is unavoidable in the highest ranks ("...worst form of government except all the others that have been tried"), but in the lower, less visible ranks where the corrective qualities elections are supposed to have apparently do not work very well, "low balling" bureaucrats might, on average, be the lesser evil.
However, even if there was widespread agreement over this (I suspect that it is quite a minority opinion), I don't see much of a migration path because a migration from elected to conventionally hired public servants would be beyond pointless if the new guys inherit all the broken culture from their elected predecessors.
I doubt it, mostly because when good candidates run you still see pretty low turnout and the good candidates often lose (and with downballot races, even the few people who bothered to vote have a hard time remembering who they voted for, let alone why). And this kind of apathy is everywhere; it's not uncommon to see some nationally famous political writers who are extremely ignorant about major local elections and don't even seem to care about them. And when it leads to bad outcomes, many people see that as an excuse for even more apathy: "See? We don't have a choice, this is an oligarchy, it's impossible to change things by voting, why bother."
I think you have a decent point about fewer elected offices, but it's hard to make a blanket statement because it's very situational since elected offices vary a lot by state. The political parties themselves could also benefit from fewer elected officials, for what it's worth.
I mean do you also find it hard to believe that people are bothered by Trump? After all, "they" just elected him.
So in 2014, after a fairly serious issue involving Cuomo getting rid of an anti-corruption panel because it was investigating corruption connected to him, only 4% of registered Democrats - four percent! - bothered to show up and vote for someone other than him in the primaries. And this was for governor! Almost 90% of registered Democrats didn't vote at all - they didn't care one way or the other who would be governor. Down ballot races usually get even less attention.
Naturally, I'm not saying that there isn't anyone who cares and acts accordingly. But what I am saying is that the amount of people who care and act accordingly are a minority, and in many cases, a very small minority.
New York has low turnout because it has a set of laws that serve to disenfranchise voters in ways that other states could only ever dream of. (Yes, people technically have the right to vote, but because of a set of laws which I've described elsewhere, there's no way for them to use these votes to hold their elected officials accountable, like there is in other states).
Once every decade or so, yes, there's a race that's moderately contested (like the one you describe). But at that point, people aren't in the habit of voting anyway.
By the way, in your example the only reason Teachout ran as a Democrat instead of on the Working Families Party as she'd planned is because of these laws. The Working Families Party was pressured into endorsing Cuomo as their candidate, to ensure that they'd retain their ballot access. Teachout was angry enough that she decided to run as a Democrat, knowing full well that she'd lose, because nobody in New York ever wins a primary without the backing of the major party.
Teachout is far and away an exception, not the rule. Even then, her run was purely symbolic, and she herself knew it.
 Again, due to a whole bunch of laws that give the party incredible influence in shaping the outcome of primaries.
The only laws I've seen you describe elsewhere in this thread is the delay in New York if you want to switch parties (was 6 months in 2016, now I believe it's up to ~11 months) and the fusion voting system. Neither of these prevents Democrats from voting in the Democratic primary, so I'm not sure which ones your talking about.
I'm not sure why you think contested races only happen once a decade. The year before the gubernatorial race, there was, (for example) a pretty well contested NYC mayoral race and NYC comptroller race. There have been plenty of contested races in the NY senate, (some connected to the IDC drama, like Tony Avella beating John Liu 6,813 to 6,245 with ~13% turnout) as well as the assembly and downballot races.
Not if they run unopposed in both the primary and general election.
New York election law is incredibly arcane and structurally makes it almost impossible to win a primary without the backing of the party, and the two parties have an agreement not to compete seriously in each other's districts. It's like how Comcast and Time Warner Cable divide up turf, so they don't ever really have to compete for the same customers.
Can you give an example of these election laws? I see you mentioned a delay in switching parties elsewhere in the thread, but I don’t see how that makes it impossible for a candidate to win a primary without party backing.
“Vacancies are filled differently across the country. In 25 states, replacement legislators are simply chosen by appointment, either by the governor (11 states) or some combination of party and local officials (14 states), according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Varying rules govern the 25 states that hold special elections, but few bestow more influence on local power brokers than New York does.”
So, in 25 states the power to hand off succession is as or more concentrated. This would seem to put NYs succession regulations right square in the middle of the pack.
Want to switch your party registration? Go ahead and do it today - it won't take effect until 2019. Yes, you read that right. This deadline for change of party registration is an order of magnitude larger than the next largest state. New York also uses fusion voting to weaken third parties - they only have any influence whatsoever if they endorse the major party candidates, which prevents any real competition with the major party candidates. (See how Cuomo created the fake "Women's Equality Party" during the last election cycle specifically in an attempt to strip the Working Families Party of its ballot status).
There are a whole range of these laws, and if I were to go into all of them, I'd exceed the maximum length for a HN comment ten times over,. The end result is that New York is, objective, the most corrupt state in the country, and the system is also perfectly stable (in the literal sense) - there is no way, short of a federal court case, that any of these laws will ever meaningfully change.
I live in a particularly stagnant political subdivision, but I’d say in the last 20 general elections, there have been maybe 3 that had something more than nominal opponents. Usually it’s for things like county coroner. They are more affirmation than election.
Did you read the article? The problems began in the 1995 under Governor George Patakis administration. Cuomo has only been in office for 6 years.
TBF NYC does have the exceptional — almost unique — feature that it runs 24/7.
Night Tube (the centre parts of the London Underground running continuously from early Friday to the middle of the night on Sunday) is mostly about re-arranging maintenance and cleaning programmes to avoid Friday and Saturday night closures. They hired a bunch more staff, but there's no infrastructure fix, so still nothing like New York.
But quoting from memory, could well be mistaken.
Other developed countries tend to have parliamentary systems where policy making requires multi-party coalitions. When you need to get three or more parties on board there is less opportunity to get park-barrel spending passed without _someone_ crying foul.
You're describing the rest of the US, not New York. New York is the other way around, where extreme corruption and disenfranchisement means elected officials have no reason to pay attention to their constituents. Sheldon Silver was one of the strongest advocates for cutting bus service, even though his district has no subway service, so they all depend on it.
Outside of city subways: Amtrak's Acela service (which is what passes for "high-speed" though I understand this is weak in comparison to Europe and Japan) was built and established in the early 2000s, and boosted Amtrak's share of the air/train travel on the NYC-DC corridor from 37% to 75%. Boston's Big Dig project, which for all its faults was certainly impressive, spanned a couple decades and was finished around 2004 or so.
Two main things you'd do if you had money and political will to speed this up:
1. Tear out old bridges (some have been "urgently in need of replacement" for a decade already) and replace with modern ones. Locals like how the old bridge looks? Great, hand over the money for a new one that looks the same. No money? You get a generic reinforced concrete bridge rated for 120mph and suck it up. This can be done in 24 hours per bridge for a short bridge, shut the railway, smash the old bridge, drop the new one in, test it, re-open the railway. If you have the manpower you can do ten bridges at once.
2. Eliminate at-grade crossings. These are unsafe even for lower speeds, they're lethal for High Speed Rail and must be closed. If practical add a bridge or tunnel. If not, too bad, close them anyway and people have to go round.
Several large cities in Europe have built new high speed tracks in tunnels under the city.
The track between London St Pancras and Stratford stations in London (and from Stratford further east) is an example. St Pancras is the end of the line, so the speed is necessarily limited by the acceleration and braking capability of the train, but  says the speed is 230km/h = 142mph.  says speeds in tunnels are limited to 270km/h (168mph), they probably mean a bit further out of the city.
Other than the last 1km or so, the whole track of this route is new.
Realistically, any city worth spending so much money on will have every train stopping at it, so there's no need for higher speeds in under-city tunnels.
I don't understand why not? Japan's high speed rail was added into multiple major cities without tearing up the whole city. What did they do that can't be done in the US?
There is one fundamental difference between the two systems and that is that the London Tube stops service overnight while the New York City Subway remains open 24/7/365. Having a nightly maintenance window of several hours in which they can do preventive maintenance is likely a big factor in keeping costs down. Throw that in with the reduction of labor with limited hours of operation and I bet those two make up a solid portion of the difference in cost per rider.
Although that's only on Friday and Saturday.
As of 2014 over 100,000 MTA workers in New York City were making over $100,000 a year each, not counting benefits or pension costs.
Take the time to see how many pages of police offers you have to scroll through in Nassau County New York alone before you get to a page where they start making under $200,000 a year.
I'm all for paying people a living wage, but its not hard to understand how, when you are spending countless billions (that increase every year) on paying countless cops and other public service workers $200,000+ a year how there is no money left over for maintaining (or, god forbid, upgrading) equipment. It doesn't matter which corporate party you vote for - Democrats and Republicans are both corrupt to the core and falling over themselves to secure these service-union votes. As a result our infrastructure is going to continue to crumble and our debt will continue to rise until we reach a breaking point which won't be pretty.
I do wonder how many of these are one-offs -- the cop making 650k (Adrian Schoolcraft) is on a closer look way less egregious than it sounds. He was something of a whistleblower in a way that fellow cops disliked, and this culminated in his house being raided and an involuntary hospital stay; the 650k is a settlement for all that. Daniel Carione is a cop on there for 450k, but that seems to be from a settlement after he was forced onto disability/retirement when he started wearing a hearing aid.
Even so, that list is amazing. Most of the entries are guys clocking a ton of overtime. The organization clearly wants to show public employees are overpaid, but it seems accurate. The NYT has cited them in the past.
Is the crime rate even that high? Isn't Nassau County one of the richest county's in the United States?
My two cents: things are more expensive in the United States due to us insisting on being so different in two major ways:
1.) Different safety and road standards. All of Europe, as well as many other countries have completely or partially adopted European road and rail safety standards. For example: in the United States if a passenger rail line shares track with freight trains the passenger cars are required to withstand collisions with heavy freight trains with a minimum of deformation. This makes everything heavy and unique. Emissions standards likewise mean that if you're still running diesel equipment that's all going to be very unique.
2.) We don't believe in social services in the United States. The NY MTA has to fund health care (via insurance) as well as pensions. TfL sure ain't subsidizing health insurance for its employees, although they may be funding a pension.
As it turns out the bigger your pool of risk, customers, whatever... the cheaper things get.
That's part of the reason why the cost of an employee is so much higher than the salary, and it's one of the costs you save by having nominally independent contractors instead of employees.
TfL does have good planning, though, and is largely able to fix things before they grow too expensive.
Right, but TfL is paying into a system that every working Briton pays into. What the New York MTA pays into (mostly) is a scheme that benefits a much smaller group.
Similarly with Racist Sheriffs and problems with local police forces happen the Home Secretary can sack the senior police officer in charge.
If the subway service in, say, London or Tokyo or Paris became as bad as some of the systems in the US, it would be a major political scandal and the people running the city would fear for their jobs. That doesn't happen in the US, even in places like New York where a majority of commuters use public transit regularly.
Punish them how? Here in America (and especially New York) we have a "two-party" system that works arm in arm to steal as much money as possible to line their own pockets. Voting for a different party doesn't mean getting a different policy - it simply means that patronage money is going into the pocket of different politically connected cronies.
I think the difference in the US is much more fundamental, pluralism is baked in to the culture in a way that is pretty unique anywhere in the world, so people have very strong reactions to members of other tribes seeking authority over them. This has gotten very explicit recently, but the dynamic was always there.
All of these things remain exactly the same no matter how much people cry about Trump, or wear pussy hats, or scream about 54 different genders or how "white supremacy" is the problem. All of these substantive policies would have been identical (and run by many of the same people) had Hillary won the election. In reality, the .00001% of the people who own this country and both corporate parties are laughing at all those people while they continue to rape the people and steal our freedoms.
If the MTA were simply a city agency for which the mayor was directly responsible, it would be possible to channel voter anger (and there's plenty of voter anger, by the way) into action. But it's the governor who really has the most control, and he's responsible to a wide swath of voters outside the New York City region (who tend to want less spent on the MTA in any case). Plus many voters don't really understand how the MTA is structured, and elected officials can hide behind this independent-agency arrangement.
I remember reading here a few years ago that one example of this is how writing the proposals for big projects for which construction companies than put offers have to be outsourced because all experts have been fired by the government. This apparently frequently leads to the government getting a much worse deal than anybody else would.
I think another thing that happens is that do much oversight gets added that all costs explode. You can't iterate on anything because if the first version isn't perfect it surely was a waste of tax payer money when you need to go back for the next iteration. So you better have several committees and a long proposal process to make sure everything is perfect and no money gets wasted. Great example is the TSA iPad app for random screening selection that was a big topic a few years ago. The app randomly showed a left or right arrow and and cost millions to make if I recall correctly.
I think the government being inefficient is somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy.
As for why, that's a much harder question...
What are the feedback loops involved? Are there consequences for poor performance? Are they the same? How often is feedback measured? Do the reward/punishment systems reflect the goals of the people paying for the org to operate?
I'm not going to go down the rabbit hole here. Instead I leave it to the reader. It's not rocket science to figure out. I've worked in and around government bodies of all sizes (including some that I considered very well run) and the bad ones are all bad for most of the same few reasons.
I wonder why?
Oh and I should mention large seemingly-private orgs that win all contracts, especially that are highly unionized without competition, are essentially government orgs and suffer the same issues.
It always surprised me how few employees there are in busy NY stations. Those that I see always seem busy and exhausted.
In Montreal, there were some newspaper articles about how a few bus/metro drivers make $100k/year by doing a lot of overtime, blaming unions. However, this was an intentional policy from management who consider it more cost-effective to encourage staff to do more overtime, rather than hire more people (who may not have a full workload).
You can see it right now in the current tax bill. There is plenty of discussion about what will happen to whose tax rates, but almost none about what services, including infrastructure, will be cut if revenue is reduced. For one party, revenue reduction is, ipso facto, a good thing.
And to even more strongly contrast the current mindset with reality, there is almost no discussion about what government can do to help its citizens except for security.
If you're going to blame Republicans, you should probably make sure there are enough to make a difference..
0 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_Council
1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_Assembly
2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Governors_of_New_York
First, the question the GP addresses is about the U.S. in general, not NY subways:
> I don’t understand why American governments are so bad at providing public services.
Second, the GP discussed problems in the voting public and in both parties, while putting a preponderance of the responsibility on one party - a conclusion that seems hard to escape. The Democrats aren't radically cutting revenue and spending everywhere they are in office.
Finally, the NYC subway is operated by the state, not he city, and I believe it is funded in large part by state. Much infrastructure funding also comes from the federal government.
I think also looking at it simply as a party problem hurts things, because there can be a lot of difference within the party, but people tend to overlook these things (and again, not just in terms of the amount of money that's spent, but also in terms of how it's spent).
The GP comment didn't describe it simply as a party problem; it put some accountability on both parties, and blamed the voters and everyone else participating in public discourse.
But sure, one party has made it a policy to cut spending, including on infrastructure. While the parent might be right that there are a lot of differences within the GOP, those differences aren't meaningful because they result in no differences in votes, laws, or public debate. They vote in lockstep and almost always speak in lockstep.
Meanwhile every individual (politician or voter or working poor) acts in an individually rational way, furthering the problem.
So while this would be a plausible argument outside NYC, it’s a ridiculous one given the parent article.
This doesn’t really work in New York City, where most people are exposed to the subway directly or through the crowding of our shitty roads.
If it was a city controlled thing it would be a huge huge issue in every single mayoral election. But it gets somewhat drowned out in governor elections.
The city retaking control of subway raises the question of who will pay for the operation and capital costs. The MTA derives allot of its funding from tolls through the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority which generated $1.8 Billion in 2016. It's unlikely the state will give TBTA back as well.
I know this isn’t the primary reason the subway is falling into disrepair, but it’s clearly a symptom of a system that lacks real accountability. There has to be some reasonable push back to compensation (backed ultimately by the tax payers of New York) that is tied to real performance and efficiency.
Isn't it a primary cause? Not having labour to perform maintenance means that maintenance isn't being done.
Great excuse next time they interview you for the job; check how much is average housing, divide roughly by three, and here is how you have reasonably arrived at your salary.
If they look at you odd, just refer to NYT article.
I mean, median household income in Brooklyn is $45k. That's household. The average household size in Brooklyn is 2.75. There'll be some kids in there, but likely the average adults per household is 1.5.
So here you have a guy earning close to $300k, likely has a partner with supplemental income too, which is easily 6-8x the median household income...jeez.
I mean hell, country wide there's a common 30% income spent on rent rule. Median rent in Brooklyn is about $36k a year, for a 120k salary. These guys are way beyond that.
It's obviously not a matter of 'do I earn enough for a decent life?'. They could earn half, say 140k, and still earn a decent life in NY. So it becomes a question of, is there anyone willing to do these jobs for say 180k, instead of 280k, and if so, the unions are no longer working in the best interests of ordinary folks.
When there's a small number of rich disproportionately salaried guys making public goods and services hugely expensive for ordinary folks, I think the Union's raison d'etre has died. (or changed into something awful).
Haven't the unions always worked in the best interest of the union members?
(and the quote is $700,000, by the way)
Do you actually know a real person who makes that much, or are you just parroting?
In those data, one sees Mr. Arthur Harkin, a Long Island Rail Road conductor, made $195,000. ($220 thousand in 2017 dollars.)
So about the same as the average CRUD app developer? This doesn't seem outrageous to me.
He makes 80k a year.
My political ideology is deeply in favor of the working class. I believe in strong worker protections, in the unionization of labor in most industries, and that capital controls a disproportionate amount of wealth and power in this country.
But I must also insist that these costs are unfair and insane.
He's also getting about another 70k in benefits, for a total compensation well into the 6-figures.
People wonder "why is the subway so filthy?" Well, if you wanted to hire people to keep the subways clean, they would have to be paid $100K+ in total compensation.
Ok, so why not hire a private company to keep subways clean? A private company would be able to pay free-market compensation to hire cleaners.
Can't do that either! Subways must stay filthy!
Because we run our system 24/7. We can’t flood our stations with bleach like they do in D.C.
"In terms of cleanliness, which is also an issue of public health - why doesn't MTA have a dedicated crew of 4 or 5 people with a power washer, soap and squeegees to move methodically through each station, working on the weekends or overnight? "
Can't have it, because the MTA is not in the moving-people-business, they are in the wealth-transfer-business.
So it's frankly absurd of the commenter to say that just 4-5 people could manage this task. One manager mentioned in the article leads a team of 300(!) cleaners.
But where the people are, the stations, they don't keep them clean. That's what the commenter was refering to.
The stations don't stay clean because they move millions of people per day, not all of whom are clean. Today I saw a kid throwing up on her way into the station; she and her mother were somehow polite enough to pause above a drain to do so. Combine that with people tracking upstairs dirt in, and littering, intentional and accidental (I dropped a candy wrapper while getting my kid home; I'm not stopping to pick it up mid-tantrum), and you've got a pretty messy situation.
I used to work for a far less offensive agency in NYC, a public library system, and IT managers there make a cool $200K -- though most librarians who are in unions make much less. I wouldn't feel too bad if they were competent folks who deserve the market rates, but many of them didn't really deserve what they were getting.
Also a lot of the value created by a subway shows in land values rather than being captured directly in fares - the article says the MTA is 60% funded by fares which is high but, well, not 100%. You need a mechanism for those who benefit (i.e. owners of buildings near subway stations) to fund the subways. In some countries the transport authority will essentially own large shopping mall complexes around each station and fund the subway that way; in Japan employers often pay for workers' subway tickets.
However, it doesn't work in London. There are a dozen train franchises, remnants of the privatized and sliced-up British Rail system. They are all atrocious in service quality, frequency, capacity and usually price when compared to the parts of the system that were never privatised (the Underground) or that were renationalised (the Overground).
I can't see NY selling off their subway to a private entity anytime soon but what if a Mayor allowed MTR or another corporation to come in and build a competing line in some part of the city? The amazingly efficient new line might light a fire under the ass of the broader NYC subway to start operating more efficiently. Or as the new line begins to make more profit it could buy NYC lines one by one until it's running most of it. This way the debt bomb of the MTA won't destroy the city because it won't affect all major transit lines.
Would love to see similar systems for Queens -> Times Square or Brooklyn -> wall street.
The Queens to Chinatown bus fills a gap in services from Flushing to Chinatown. If that bus is really transporting multiple subway trains worth of people each day, that in my mind means we ought to build better mass transit between those two places. Not that we should cannibalize our working people-moving infrastructure for something worse.
What's wrong with cannibalizing a system that's fundamentally broken?
No such culture exists in the US.
The particular competitive business environment in the US makes it almost impossible.
The system carried more passengers in the 40's. They did it by running trains more often. It's not rocket science.
The L train to Bedford Ave carries way more people now than it ever did in the 1940s, when Williamsburg was a modestly dense working-class neighborhood. On the other hand, those letter lines to outer Brooklyn are much less used today than they were in the 1940s, as are parts of the system in the Bronx. And, of course, there were elevated lines over Second and Third Avenues in the 1940s.
The parts of the system that run at crush capacity are already running with the highest possible train frequency. Some of the lines might not seem maxed out on headways, but they have to deal with interlining; the frequency of the F train can't be increased because the line it shares with the E train in Queens is fully loaded, etc.
The west side has multiple lines (red & blue, plus the yellow line starting around midtown) while the east side only has the green line (and the yellow line south of Union Sq.).
Each train has to approach a station, brake, stop, wait while people enter and leave, start and accelerate, all at safe distance to the trains in front and behind. Braking, standing still and starting easily add up to a minute, so a two-minute cycle time is hard even if the track layout is friendly (evenly spaced stations, no mutexes in the central area, etc).
Ninety seconds is really impressive.
Getting rid of absolute block helps, a moving block system can allow the following train to enter immediately, rather than waiting until the tail of train A leaves the far end of the station before the front of train B can begin moving. But that's not exactly something you can just drop in on a Tuesday afternoon, you'd usually have to shut the whole railway, add new signal technology, re-train staff, maybe even buy new rolling stock.
I've only travelled with one 30tph (two-minute) system, it was really relaxing. As you say, it felt as if the next train was coming immediately. Quite subjectively, it felt as if the wind pushed by next train could be felt while the previous train's lights were still visible in the tunnel.
From Penn St you take the NJ Transit train to Newark airport, or the LIRR train to Jamaica where you transfer to the AirTrain which brings you to your desired terminal at JFK.
LaGuardia doesn't have a train option though.
But yeah, taking a car from Newark to Williamburg in the afternoon, I guess you've learned not to do that again. :) NJ Transit is your friend.
Compare this with HKG or LHR, it is pathetic.
Just like when you're booking a ticket to/from "London", you don't pick Luton if you really mean Heathrow. If my destination was Williamsburg I would pick LGA if at all possible, otherwise JFK. Picking EWR and having to go across the city is not a good plan to start with.
Also, don't take the subway to/from JFK, take LIRR it's like 40 minutes faster.
Also, people should not be afraid of the connecting M60 bus when taking the subway en route to LaGuardia.
I know this is NYC but wow..
One example from Thailand, where even killing a cop isn't enough to get the wheels of justice turning: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39427291
I would pretty much never consider taking an Uber over taking the metro from 7am-7pm on weekdays because it would invariably be slower and more expensive.
But 1) you're not really paying full freight here; and 2) $20 per day round-trip is not an affordable commuting option for most Americans, anyway.
Lyft costs under 10 bucks and takes under 15 minutes if I leave after 9:45.
It's all state by state, or country by country anyway, and when we are specifically talking subways, it's city by city. It's at the city level that the debate leaves out of consideration the one city that is orders of magnitude above and beyond any other city in the world in terms of complexity and operational performance: Tokyo.
Forget the NY Subway, forget London's Tube, forget the Paris Metro or the Berlin U-Bahn, or the Hong Kong MRT for that matter... Everyone's attention should be focused on really understanding the Tokyo system and how it works.
NYC has 25 services over 20+- lines (depending on how you count.) That doesn't include PATH nor does it include Airtrain or any of the commuter lines that connect to the system and are part of the greater transit network.
Tokyo, when you really look at the whole interconnected system of rapid transit, and not the small part that is arbitrary, and IMHO incorrectly, called the "subway," (referring to the Tokyo Metro and Toei lines generally situated within the Yamanote circle,) you have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of services over hundreds and hundreds of lines...
The fact that all of these lines run on time to the second, with well maintained trains, with well maintained stations, with clear and up-to-date communications, with service focused on the passenger... Tokyo should be the model for the world.
After thinking it through, I realized that I had ridden that exact same subway car in the past.
It was a recommissioned car from Toronto!
So they're obviously doing something to try and save money.
It really made me question my own city's transit system as well.
How could NYC make do with something that Toronto thought was worth getting rid of?
Or, old OEM parts.
NYC should learn something from Toronto and London. They have the best subway systems IMHO.
It's spotless, easy to navigate (lots of language-free signs with really clear intuitive diagrams of where to go), and almost eerily fast and smooth-riding. And 5 bars of LTE the whole time.
We just need to expand the system further. The Eglinton line and the Finch LRT will help.
* General age of the fleet (not helped by Bombardier's delayed deliveries)
* Lack of dedicated streetcar lanes; it's still shocking to me that streetcars packed full of passengers are allowed to be held up by single-passenger vehicles
Toronto has mostly low-density housing, with spots of very high density- generally, around subway stations. From a plane the other day, I noticed you can see all the subway lines from a very far distance just by looking for lines made of tall building clusters. This is a feedback relationship though- where there is density, we put subway lines, and where there are subway stations people build more density.
London, by contrast, has more of a medium-density everywhere. You could put a tube station just about anywhere in London and you'd have a large number of people who can and would walk to it.
Still, I'm quite happy with the quality of the lines we do have. I just hope that as we build more, that can be maintained.
Cleaner, more modern, frequent trains, less delays.