OPINION: Shining A Light On Transit Priorities

Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb

Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb

by Assemblyman Brian Kolb

The “Summer of Hell” New York City commuters are facing makes upstate New Yorkers feel lucky.

The deterioration of the city’s mass transit system has resulted in daily subway delays, overcrowded stations, riders trapped on trains and ongoing chaotic events. The situation is adversely affecting the quality of life for millions of New Yorkers on a regular basis.

Yet as problems continue to plague riders, and commuters demand action from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the governor has diverted responsibility and resources away from the problem at hand.


The MTA’s seven bridges and two tunnels are being fitted with decorative lighting displays, capable of offering choreographed light shows. And the yet-to-be disclosed cost of the project isn’t cheap. In what has become standard operating procedure for the governor, there is no clarity on the exact price (estimates range from $200 million to $350 million), or precisely what agency (or agencies) will fund the project.

Despite the lack of specifics, a few things are crystal clear. At the end of the day, taxpayers will be picking up the tab. And as the city’s mass transit system continues to crumble, a $200 million lightshow is hardly the best use of state resources.

The governor’s devotion to this lighting project screams government waste and turns a blind eye to his obligation to the residents and visitors to our great state. People who ride the subway system need to get to work, doctors’ appointments and their children to school and daycare. Fancy bridge lights won’t get people to their destinations on time.


In the midst of the crisis, the governor has completely sidestepped responsibility. His office went so far as to blame New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying that the city “owns the subway and is solely responsible for funding its capital plan.” In fact, it’s the MTA, an entity effectively under the governor’s control, which runs New York’s expansive transportation system.

Accountability has never been a hallmark of this administration. The budget process remains shrouded in secrecy and is conducted almost entirely behind closed doors. The governor’s own aides were arrested for corrupting state economic development programs, yet transparency in those programs is still sorely lacking. Construction to build the new $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge began in 2013, but there is still no public spending plan on how all the costs will be covered.

The nearly 6 million New Yorkers who ride the subway every weekday are getting a firsthand look at how Albany handles a crisis. They surely are not impressed. As transit issues mount, it’s long past time to tackle the issue head-on, devise solutions in an open manner, and put the public on top of the priority list.

Contact Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb at kolbb@nyassembly.gov, on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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