Last week Governor Cuomo made headlines by announcing that the MTA would be seeking to implement a corporate sponsorship model for New York’s subway stations. Cuomo argues that conservancies, which are mostly funded through private dollars, worked for parks and thus could inject New York’s struggling subway system with some much needed capital. The city’s subway denizens who suffer through both chronic delays and dreary, nasty stations environments, may be inclined to agree.
Last weekend, the MTA’s recent struggles went national when the Mayor of Chicago, published a Monday New York Times Op-Ed entitled “In Chicago, The Trains Actually Run on Time.” The haughty, headline of Emanuel’s opine earned a swift backlash from New York’s press and many ordinary citizens. New Yorkers may hate the MTA, but it’s our MTA! Beneath all of the noise, there was a rare, thoughtful and prominent critique of urban mass transit best practices.
For me, many of Emanuel’s argument’s resonated, while other’s didn’t.
The last 60 days were hell for commuters who rely on New York’s Penn Station, the busiest transit hub in the North America. In several separate incidents, train derailments and other problems have caused delays that have, quite literally, affected millions of passengers.
Last night, the New York Times ran a local reaction story that seemed pretty typical for those who’ve grown accustomed to following development and infrastructure in the region. Times reporters questioned local residents about Governor Cuomo’s plan to replace the Sheridan Expressway with a more neighborhood friendly boulevard and, predictably, found a range of opinions. Many loved the idea, others expressed concerns. Among those who weren’t so sure, a common refrain was used: Is this the best way to spend $1.8 billion?
That’s a good question.
As homelessness rises to record highs, community opposition to proposed shelters remains deep-seated and, for local elected officials, implacable. In Brooklyn last week, residents blasted the mayor’s proposal for a shelter in Crown Heights, and in Salt Lake City, residents are pleading with the state to intervene in the city’s plan to place a shelter near Downtown. In Los Angeles, communities are opposed to even storage facilities for items belonging to the homeless. Similar themes have cropped up in almost every city; no one wants a homeless shelter in their backyard.
Los Angeles, long the poster-child for sprawling low density development, has quietly built a strong case for the country’s leading transit planning city. While no one would dare argue that today’s Los Angeles offers serious competition to the likes of New York, Boston or Washington DC, the city is doing what no one else has been able to: think big and build big.