Have You Learned Nothing, People? Stop Telling Bill de Blasio to Fix the Subway

Illustration for article titled Have You Learned Nothing, People? Stop Telling Bill de Blasio to Fix the Subway
Photo: AP

Bill de Blasio is the Mayor of New York, or so we are told. He rarely shows up to work and often appears disconnected and bored from the day-to-day duties of running America’s largest city. He is so disinterested in the city, in fact, that he has decided to run for president even though nobody else wants him to, including his own donors.

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This has naturally opened him up to brutal, rampant criticism. There are many, many reasons to roast our gangly city dad for his decision to spend the next several months in other states with cities he doesn’t govern. However, a large number of people have instead decided to forgo the valid criticism and latch onto one of the few ills in this city he is not responsible for: the subway.

Local reporter Dave Colon has been on this since De Blasio first announced a few weeks ago, with a running gag that any verified Twitter user, especially people who live in New York, ought to know better and therefore owe Colon $50 for any “fix the subway” tweets. Dave is owed a lot of money.

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The latest culprit is someone we perhaps shouldn’t expect any better from, but bears mentioning anyways: the current president’s big boy son and New York City resident, Don Jr.:

Jr. is right, in that de Blasio’s Twitter game is preposterously bad (his major campaign platform, so far as I can tell, is to try and make #ConDon a thing), but he joins a legion of other Twitter checkmarks in dismissing de Blasio by telling him to fix the subway, which is not how New York City works.

Yes, the subway has experienced historic, internationally-covered issues during his tenure as mayor, thanks to decades of government failures and managerial incompetence. But the mayor has almost no control over the New York City subway. The subway is operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state entity. The MTA’s chairman and CEO is appointed by the governor. The governor appoints the most board seats of any elected official. The state senate approves all of the nominees for the above positions, even those nominated by the mayor. The governor cancels major projects. The governor of New York is Andrew Cuomo, not Bill de Blasio.

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To be sure, the mayor plays a very important role in the city’s bus system, which is also operated by the MTA, but requires cooperation with the city Department of Transportation to create bus lanes, build bus stops, and other infrastructure related to the city streets (the fact that all of this is very complicated and confusing is not unrelated to why it all works so poorly). The buses are an even bigger mess than the subways are, with many routes through key corridors barely surpassing walking speed. But slow buses are not an international source of embarrassment for America’s largest city so no one talks about that nearly as much as they should.

There are a lot of sorry affairs about this city for which de Blasio deserves ample blame: deteriorating public housing, worsening homelessness and the affordable housing crisis, the aforementioned failures to speed up buses or keep up with international peer cities in pedestrianizing larger swaths of the city with high foot traffic, and flapping his gums a lot about the climate crisis without taking any meaningful action. By all means, get on his case about any one of those issues if you can even be bothered to care about de Blasio’s existence at all, which I don’t necessarily encourage you to do.

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Just don’t tell him to fix the subway. Or else you’ll owe Dave Colon $50.

Former Senior Reporter, Investigations & Technology, Jalopnik

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DISCUSSION

Not sure what the point of this was. Just because he doesn’t have power over the MTA doesn’t mean he’s powerless to fix the subways. Part of being a politician is being able to schmooze with other politicians. If he cared about the subway he’d have cozied up to Governor Cuomo a long time ago.

de Blasio has no control over federal immigration. Yet a last year he travelled all the way to the Texas border for a PR opportunity. So he’s shown that he cares about things he can’t control.

He could be riding the subway, he could be the voice of the working class AKA subway riders, he could speak out on behalf of subway riders more than once a year. He’s chosen not to.

And as you mentioned, he has a lot more control over the buses. Yet he’s ignored the buses in favor of handing taxpayer money to his donor friends who run the relatively worthless ferries. 

Based on his action and his inaction he doesn’t deserve this weird defense of “oh but he doesn’t run the subways.” He deserves to huff the fumes from the 59th Street/Lex Station for the rest of eternity.