Thursday, March 19, 2009

Useful Idiots

We got this call yesterday, from someone who said that he was from the group Transportation Alternatives. The phone voice was upset with something we had written that characterized the group as bike riding, skateboarding wackos. He complained about the name calling and pleaded for more civility-a discussion of policy, if you will-and less name calling. Feeling kinda of bad for the poor fella, we told him that we would consider following his suggestion. That was until we saw the shenanigans that these rather lame street performers were displaying on their web site.

The site in question was linked by the intrepid Liz, and featured a contest to caption a picture of four state senators-the guys who used to be called the Gang of Four-who had taken on the MTA; and who were vigorously opposing the imposition of bridge tolls. The site, representing the height of sophomoric humor, quickly quelled any rachmones we felt for these useful idiots-tools of business moguls who, ensconced in their private clubs and corporate board rooms, are laughing at their gullible malleability.

So, as we said yesterday, these bike riding naifs are being used to defend-not only the corporate interests of the Manhattan business class, folks who are looking to make the island that much freer from outer borough traffic; but the interests of the most corrupt and inefficient public authority on the planet. They are, in a word, a perfect diversion; performing street theater in a purported defense of straphangers while someone else counts the receipts.

Which brings us back to the MTA itself, and agency that reminds us of the old joke about the farmer who $1 million in the lottery. When asked what he'll do with the money, he replies: "I guess I'll keep farming till it's all gone." So it goes with our transit sinkhole. It's long past the time when this antiquated governing structure was-like an old subway train-dismantled and sold for parts.

But all of this is obscured by the attack on the senate and its most colorful members. But if you examine the high dudgeon coming from the governor and his lackeys the other day, there was nothing about what to do with an agency that manages to lose more and more money each day; as it simultaneously packs its buses and trains with record ridership. And check the speaker's proposal-not a peep about transforming the MTA.

Can anyone say TARP? Are these so-called responsible citizens and elected officials willing-like the tooth fairy believing Washington pols-to simply pour money into the MTA with no strings attached? And these are the folks, cheered on by the street performers, who claim they are defending the transit riders: "While we're at it, we figure if the State Senate is going to treat New York City's transit riders like clowns and turn the MTA funding process into a year-long circus, we're going to need a good graphic to go with the story. So, here's what Livable Streets Initiative graphic design genius Carly Clark came up with. From left-to-right that's Monserrate playing the role of the abusive Moe, Kruger as the developmentally-impaired Curly, Espada as Shemp, and Diaz as the bumbling but lovable Larry. We'll have travel mugs and t-shirts printed up soon so you can ride with the Fare Hike Four on your morning commute."

How sad. It is about time that some electeds said enough is enough-and changed the way the transit system is governed. And did you see that the agency might be bringing back Marc Shaw to head up its affairs? The same guy who spent the agency into hopeless debt. What, Freddy Krueger wasn't available?

So Streetsblog needs to have a thorough overhaul; because it has little abilty to expose the real clowns from under the MTA circus tent. If they are really interested in protecting transit riders they wouldn't be shilling for the dysfunctionals now running the system into the ground. Name calling in this calamitous environment is appropriate; but the objects of obloquy have to be changed.