Last issue, we gave Mayor Giuliani flunking grades for his dubious performance in transportation policy. Among the Mayor's most glaring failures was his proposal to slice hundreds of millions from the City's budget devoted to rebuilding the subway and bus system. Gene Russianoff and Joe Rappaport of the Straphangers Campaign spell out the problem and its consequences:
Mayor's Giuliani's Fiscal Year 1995 budget would cut $750 million from the current five-year transit rebuilding program, shrinking City funds devoted to transit repair to their lowest level in 15 years. The two major cuts would come from two crucial sources, the direct City capital funds and money from the Municipal Assistance Corporation. Between 1987 and 1991, the City contributed $205 million annually to rebuild mass transit The current City budget cuts the City's share in half to $105 million. This means that for the duration of the 5-year capital program, transit riders will lose a half a billion dollars worth of desperately needed repairs. Mayor Giuliani also wants to block an additional $250 million in MAC funds slated for transit. Although a Cuomo aide has said that the governor would not agree to these cuts (a 1986 MAC agreement requires his approval), his silence on this issue means that MAC may simply let the cuts take effect.
These cuts will kill projects to fight crime and clean up transit stations. The MTA will have to cut its station rehabilitation program by nearly $300 million, which means that more than thirty stations located in every; borough will be denied repairs, and fifty stations will not get safer lighting.
Sacrificing these improvements flies in the face of economic development. A vibrant city economy depends on decent transit. The New York City Chamber of Commerce and Industry has opposed cutting transit funds. According to MTA Chair Peter Stangl, "these cuts send a very bad signal to both Albany and the New York business community that the City is not willing to invest in what is arguably the region's most valuable economic asset." Funds for transit , should be taken from less valuable and more suspect projects, like the$400 million reconstruction of the West Side Highway.
The Mayor's transit cuts contrast sharply with his words as a candidate. In October, Giuliani criticized his opponent for cutting transit "The $500 million total shortfall as proposed by the Dinkins Administration would prevent the MTA from making the type of system modernizations and safety improvements which are needed to bring our mass transit infrastructure into the 21st century."
Candidate Giuliani was right Getting transit to a state of good repair and keeping it there requires constant spending--not one-shot spending for a few years. Maybe Major Giuliani needs to write "I will not cut transit" on the blackboard several hundred times until he remembers his former wisdom and his grades in transportation improve.