Raise a Toast to the MTA

It looks like New York commuters will continue to enjoy end-of-the day drinks on the train ride home. A Metropolitan Transportation Authority committee has rejected a proposal to ban them:

The authority first agreed to consider a halt to alcohol sales on commuter trains and in rail stations in December, at the urging of Mitchell H. Pally, a board member from Long Island. Mr. Pally said he was concerned that passengers would drink on the train and then drive home, creating a liability for the authority if they became involved in an accident. He also said he worried that rowdy drinkers might be disturbing other passengers....

But data provided by the authority's Police Department does not indicate widespread problems stemming from the sale of alcohol by the railroads.

The police issued 287 tickets on the Long Island and Metro-North lines last year to people on trains or in stations who were drinking alcohol and creating a disturbance. Far more prevalent, the police said, were instances of people on commuter lines who needed medical help because of extreme drunkenness. There were 994 such cases on the two railroads last year, but officials said that in virtually every case, the riders appeared to have done most or all of their drinking before they ever got on a train.

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  • lunchstealer||

    Speaking of mass transit as substitute for drunk driving, I'd just like to reiterate my pique with the Dallas DART system. The biggest pedestrian districts in town are the ones with night life. Yet no attempt has been made to integrate these pedestrian districts with the DART Rail. Indeed, DART shuts down at midnight, a full two hours before the bars close. It seems like they really want to promote drunk driving.

    Actually the biggest problem is that the movers/shakers think that DART Rail is almost purely for commuters coming to and from Dallas' downtown area. If it is to serve any non-commuter function, it is to promote residential and retail/dining development downtown, which becomes a ghost town as of 5:30 each weekday. But downtown is so grey and dead that I can't imagine the kind of required development succeeding. Especially with the competition from several pre-existing areas outside of downtown.

  • ||

    Reason has published enough articles highlighting the incompetence of many public transportation initiatives. It's nice to know that we can at least get well oiled while braving the commute to our fine suburban homes.

  • ||

    my pique with the Dallas DART system

    Ditto that.

    Not to mention that the DART system is an independent authority with its own cops, who seem to be mostly thuggish rejects from other Texas police forces (and just let that soak in for a minute). You are far more likely to catch a beat-down from a DART cop for being insufficiently respectful of his auhoritay than you are to get hassled by the Dallas PD.

  • highnumber||

    DART system [...] cops [...] seem to be mostly thuggish rejects from other Texas police forces (and just let that soak in for a minute).

    Dude, I just spit little chunks of kosher salami all over the screen.

  • Cesar||

    At least your cities have mass transit that goes somewhere, I don't know, worthwhile. GRTC stops at the city line and seems to only serve various public housing projects.

  • Rhywun||

    I was totally shocked when I heard about this. I would have given about 99 to 1 odds that a New York City authority would decide to restrict a vice on its trains.

    Actually the biggest problem is that the movers/shakers think that DART Rail is almost purely for commuters coming to and from Dallas' downtown area.

    In most American cities, commuters are the only reliable source of riders.

  • lunchstealer||

    RC - Yeah, and make no mistake, the Dallas PD is no bastion of enlightenment. I've known a few Dallas cops. The one that I respected ended up quitting after a couple of years because he didn't want to become a racist/fascist prick.

  • ||

    Say, the Chicago Transit Authority employed ninjas with dogs back when I lived there. Not to mention the Guardian Angels up in Rogers Park, though I don't think they were on the payroll, per se. Anyway, drinking may or may not have been allowed on those trains, but urinating and vomiting were certainly permissible.

    R C,

    What about Walker, Texas Ranger?

  • ||

    Turns out that Walker, Texas Ranger takes place in the small town of Texas, New Hampshire. There couldn't be a more liberal gunslinger around.

  • eugene||

    Lamar, correct me if I'm wrong but I think the official Reason viewpoint on mass transit, as expressed in the links you provide is that it's Bad Thing. The official Reason viewpoint to all problems related to transit are Build More (Toll) Roads. The problem is how to apply the official Reason Policy to the MTA article. The difficulty is that the article apparently shows that mass transit has a distinct advantage (ie ability to safely drink while riding) to cars.

  • ||

    eugene, a more careful reading of the Official Reason Position on mass transit would reveal indifference on mass transit v. private automobiles, but the usual doctrinaire opposition to two common features of mass transit schemes: massive subsidies funded by taxes, and confiscation-by-regulation of private property rights to create (artificially) high-density car-hostile neighborhoods to be served by mass transit.

  • ||

    If anyone can build and operate a train that is self-funded, pleasant and convenient to use, doesn't smell like urine or involve frequent opportunities to become a victim of crime, and costs less to use than my car, why then I'll all for mass transit.

    Back to anecdote land, I rather liked the Metro in D.C. But it's subsidized so heavily that we could've built a permanent base on Mars (including transportation costs) for what it cost to build and operate. And it's done nothing at all to alleviate the traffic problems up there, that's for sure.

    Speaking of the Metro, why is (or, at least, was) it more or less safe as far as crime goes compared to the L/El? Or to the subway in New York?

  • ||

    I'll agree with you, Pro L. The DC Metro is the "nicest," but it's hardly the most efficient. It's not just a money hole; it's also consistently backed up and broken.

    The NYC subway, on the other hand, is a shithole, but at least it works.

  • MTA MUST DIE||

    Rhywun | June 4, 2007, 2:49pm | #
    I was totally shocked when I heard about this. I would have given about 99 to 1 odds that a New York City authority would decide to restrict a vice on its trains.


    I was surprised too. (NYC resident) But not too surprised. No way they're going to take the cocktail hour away from hedge fund managers and the greenwich financial cronies.

    I hope everyone takes this as one example of 'semi sensible' non-decision by a public authority that is probably one of the most evil, fucked up, unholy organizations in america.

    MTA is satan on steriods. They are the legion of doom working with the mafia. My ranting dosnt even scratch the surface of their funkitude. They manage to lose a billion dollars a year under the couch, yet they still can't empty the trash cans on subway platforms. You piss them off and the union shuts the city down in the dead of winter during christmas retail season. Everyone fears them. The Governor and the Mayor talk tough at times but can't do anything to muscle them. I am personally afraid of them, frankly. For posting this I could dissapear and end up under a parking lot in new jersey. Someone should do a documentary on these guys. one source of their power is their boringness and layers of beauracracy... they are far closer to the Liberal characterization of "TEH CORPORASHUNZ" than any real corporation. They literally rape 'consumers' for every penny, with continually declining quality of service, yet they remain totally unanswerable to the public, because they have a state-backed monopoly. Fuck the public, they say. P&G can't do that and get away with it. Their scams are sometimes jaw droppingly blatant, but no one ever goes to jail... like, they RENTED a building, then decided to spend $100m 'renovating it', then moved out. The renovations never really happened. Unsurprisingly, the construction renovators were mob connected, and the scam kicked back all the way to D'Amato's pockets. The MTA holds massive debt, mostly because they see no real reason to spend their own money. Simply borrow, give it away to cronies, then let the state pay the cost of holding the debt over time (paying 3-4X principal). "If New York State were a sovereign country, it would rank eighth in external debt, edging out China"(the Nation, of all people, said that). It's flat out insane. They purposely avoid long term structural improvements to justify their gigantic perpetual-maintenance army. Was it last year a main switching station exploded, and it was revealed it dated to like... 1925 or something? I want to cry sometimes. They keep people in boxes in the stations all day, but all the ticketing and station work is automated... they just sit there and read and piss in cans. If you ask them a question they scream at you through distorted sqwalk boxes and bulletproof glass that that answering questions isnt their fucking job. Which asks the question... well, what is their fucking job?

    decent article from a libertoid type about the subway awfulness, which is just one aspect on their empire of shit:

    http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0602e.asp

  • eugene||

    Right guys, trains should be self funding, just like roads right? Here's a case where purported "indifference" to mass transit versus cars, works in favor of the status quo (ie. relying on the current regime of the government massively subsidizing road construction whilst starving mass transit).

    Especially funny are comments like Pro Libertate and Chris S., "I have no problem with mass transit, but just that it's smells/it's slow/it's crime ridden". In other words, "Mass Transit isn't well funded -> therefore sucks -> therefore cut more funding from it" viscious circle.

  • GILMORE||

    eugene | June 4, 2007, 7:09pm | #

    Eugene,

    The issue is probably less to do with "mass" transit, than public transit, which because it's non competitive, IS filthy, slow, and crime ridden (mostly crime by the operators themselves, milking the funding for their own benefit).

    More funding wouldnt fix the problem of graft in the public-private partnership equation. Less would force them to operate more efficiently, in theory. Getting rid of them altogether would be the best solution

  • GILMORE||

    p.s.

    vicious "cycle" dude

  • eugene||

    I can't figure out why London and Tokyo aren't listening to you guys, given all the government funds thrown away and wasted on these pathetic goverment, unprofitable, unself-sustaining smelly disasters. Oh wait, they're pretty much 99.999% reliable and they don't smell...hmm...it's almost as if.. in Europe and Japan that mass transit are treated as essential services like electricity and roads, and funded as such.

    It's a viscous cycle because traffic gets slower and slower - heh!

  • eugene||

    (turning down the snark for sec...)

    Why can't libertarians come up with some proposals for free-market mass transit? You'd think the imaginative minds able to approve of such bold (and expensive) public work projects as Tampa's "cross-town expressway, an elevated road built in the median of an existing four-lane highway" or Australia's "effective job of using tunnels to connect highways while preserving neighborhoods" would be able to think of one or two ideas for some kind of mass transit?

  • ||

    eugene,

    The New York city subway system was privately built and financed. Starting in 1913 the city took over construction of new lines, and bought out the private subway lines in the 30's.

    If you want Libertarian analysis of transportation google Dr Walter Block, he's written a couple of books on the subject.

    Anyway, the point is that libertarianism isn't central planning. Speaking for myself I am not an expert on transportation. Under a free market system, the guys who understand it best are free to to set up businesses that try to provide a good or service in the most profitable manner they can devise, and I enjoy the benefits of their genius.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Eugene, ever heard of Bob Poole?

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Sorry, that was kinda snarky. Reason is in the forefront of transportation issues and Bob Poole, BELOVED FOUNDER, is one if not THE premier transportation expert in the country who has come up with incredible answers to transportation issues. Hint: the US is way, way behind the rest of the world in implementing market based projects to alleviate congestion and get people from here to there.

  • ||

    Chris S.,

    I can only speak about the Metro from my brief time in DC, back in 1995. I didn't have any problems with it then, but I'm plenty willing to believe that it's gotten worse or always was bad.

    Incidentally, you're right, I left efficient and reliable off of my list.

  • Rhywun||

    Must Die,

    You're right in certain respects. The MTA is almost certainly corrupt to the core, as is our state and local government. But you HAVE to admit that the subway system is in far, far better shape now than it was 20 years ago.

    The buses, by the way, are uniformly spotless and smell-free. Characterizations such as "smelly", "dirty", "dangerous" [I've never owned a car in 38 years and somehow I've never been the victim of a crime on a bus or train... go figure] say more about the average Reasonite's attitude acquired after one or two scary trips to the big, bad city than about actual conditions there.

  • ||

    Rhywun: Everything in NYC, and probably most of the world, is better than it was 20 years ago. I'm not impressed by reduced service being ushered in by higher prices, a transit strike and a gaping hole in the MTA budget.

    You have a point. The trains and buses are very pretty. One notices such a thing when shedules are reduces and it becomes difficult to travel throughout the city. The subways are better than they were 20 years ago, but worse than they were 5 years ago.

  • Rhywun||

    Everything in NYC, and probably most of the world, is better than it was 20 years ago. I'm not impressed by reduced service being ushered in by higher prices, a transit strike and a gaping hole in the MTA budget.

    The subways went from covered in graffiti, teeming with criminals, and breakdowns every 20,000 miles to no graffiti, huge drop in crime (greater than the national average), and breakdowns every 150,000 miles. Accordingly, ridership has increased significantly, especially since the introduction of free transfers to buses. I think the improvements in the subway over that time period far outpace "general" world improvement. Obviously it's nowhere near perfect but it could be a lot worse. We can continue to hope for pie-in-the-sky improvements like getting rid of the union or privatizing the thing, but I don't see any of that happening. Sometimes we have to be realistic and work with what we've got :(

  • ||

    I'm not going to disagree with anything people have posted about the subways in NYC. My late great-uncle once took my little brother and I on an epic subway journey from Jamaica to Far Rockaway, back when that was a double fare zone, but as a Lawn Islander, born and bred, I almost never used them. Our forays into The City were usually via the LIE or the LIRR, and I've never lived on Manhattan. I've actually ridden the Chicago El more often than the IRT or the IND. But even I know that drinking alcohol is verboten on the subways, and will net you a disorderly conduct citation. [subway rules hier] (Section 1050.7 g)

    The bar carts, and before them, club cars, were never on the subways. It's the commuter lines that have alcohol. The Long Island Rail Road, a formerly private operation that the MTA bought from the old Pennsylvania Railroad before it consolidated with the New York Central, is the one I used to ride. Metro North serves Connecticut, New Jersey and the suburbs on New York State's mainland, and also consists of lines purchased from private companies.

    Dashing Dan and the Metro Man get to have a cocktail, and by the time their commutes, which can take an hour or two, are over they should be OK to drive, if they've imbibed in moderation. Many of those hardworking folks will be picked up at the station by a spouse or other family member, so a DUI doesn't even come into it.

    Kevin

  • MTA MUST DIE2 - ELECTRIC BOOGA||


    Rhywun | June 5, 2007, 10:58am | #

    But you HAVE to admit that the subway system is in far, far better shape now than it was 20 years ago.


    I admit NOTHING!! I admit the economic conditions were far worse, and the city was having a bit of a budget meltdown. And also, *people* changed. Thats a fuzzier point, but I think the Tipping Point argument had some merit to it (that people got tired of crack and shooting and living in a shithole neighborhood). People started moving back into the city in the 90s and it brought new money. I dont credit the Broken Windows policing theory. And I really, really dont credit the MTA for shit.

    eugene | June 4, 2007, 8:45pm | #

    I can't figure out why London and Tokyo aren't listening to you guys, given all the government funds thrown away and wasted on these pathetic goverment, unprofitable, unself-sustaining smelly disasters. Oh wait, they're pretty much 99.999% reliable and they don't smell...


    I think you've just proven you've never been to london for a very long time.

    Talk to any resident of london about the tube, and you get a screaming litany of complaints about a) unreliabiliy, b) expense (the system sucks up billions in taxes and you still have to pay per distance traveled, meaning its *@#&$*(@ expensive), and c) yes, even the occasionall funky platform. I worked out of north london but friends lived in the south and their stops were excellent backdrops for post apocalyptic b-movie.

    Also, one of the only GOOD things they've done with the tube is actually allow competitive private companies bid on maintenance and development work. They got rid of ~8000 publc employees. So that kind of pops your point on its own

    Tokyo i cant say shit about other than isnt that the one where they pay people to shove people inside?

  • eugene||

    MTA MUST DIE

    Right, they hate the Tube. Give them an American-funded mass transit system and they'll be begging for the Tube. And I've ridden it in 2005; is 2 years a very long time?

    "expense (the system sucks up billions in taxes and you still have to pay per distance traveled, meaning its *@#&$*(@ expensive)"

    Right, let's privatize it, that always lowers costs... 'cause it's not subsidized and the fare will more accurately reflect the cost of the ride!

    "Tokyo i cant say shit about other than isnt that the one where they pay people to shove people inside?"

    Right, and also, no one rides it anymore; it's too crowded.

  • rhywun||

    And I really, really dont credit the MTA for shit.

    Hey, I'm no fan of the MTA--but the trains didn't just clean up themselves & the big repair projects didn't complete themselves. Be big and give them some grudging credit. They could have pissed all that money into executive salaries and lavish pensions even more than usual, but they listened to the people's demands to fix the subway and managed to get halfway there so far.

    one of the only GOOD things they've done with the tube is actually allow competitive private companies bid on maintenance and development work

    Hm. Based on your previous paragraph, that doesn't seem to be working out too well! :(

  • ||

    "but the trains didn't just clean up themselves & the big repair projects didn't complete themselves."

    I admit I've only lived here since the late 1990s. I'm sure the MTA has improved since the Bernie Goetz days. As some have noted, NYC is not the same dilapidated city in general. Ya pour more money into it and the trains get cleaner. Of course, a lot of that money simply disappears. I've gotten to the point where I have to move away from the metro area. I simply can't efficiently get around like I could, say, 5 years ago.

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