Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation). Like moth to a flame, I'm drawn to read every page when a candidate releases a 252-page briefing book. So when Andrew Cuomo sent out his "The New NY Agenda: A Plan for Action" on Sunday night, I was excited. Really.
I wouldn't be spending the campaign waiting for my interview, or listening closely to q-and-a's, or shouting out questions at press conferences. It would be all there, in black and white, the answers to all my questions. Too bad I was wrong.
There are a scant five pages in a 252-page book (albeit one with with wide margins and generous spacing -- and 50 pages of footnotes) on transportation and infrastructure (pp. 99-100 and 115-117, repeated in bullet form on page 165.). (At the end of this post, you'll find those pages, but you can scroll through the whole thing, if you like.) "Pieces of the Champlain Bridge" he writes, "are floating in the water below." (See TN's report from March.) Problems are ticked off: The Tappan Zee bridge is old, the MTA is broke, the air traffic system is aging. New York lacks high speed rail. Yes, these things are true. But while Cuomo does offer some concrete solutions -- an infrastructure bank to capture federal funding, trains that run 100 mph -- he barely gives himself time to lay out the problems, let alone come up with solutions.
Let's take the MTA, which faces an $800 million gap this year. The MTA board is controlled by the governor, yet Cuomo is silent on what he would do to fill the coffers: raise fares, as Governor Chris Christie did in New Jersey? Increase the state contribution to the MTA? Reorganize MTA formulas so suburban riders contribute the same percentage of the actual costs as city riders do? (Currently suburban rides, while more costly in absolute dollars, are more heavily subsidized than city rides.)
Does Cuomo support bridge tolls, as current Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch does, or congestion pricing, like the plan Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed? What about policies that favor so-called smart growth or sustainable communities, so much in favor with the federal government right now? (Don't forget, Cuomo was the HUD Secretary under Clinton).
Cuomo makes reference to the proliferation of state agencies and authorities, and in New York, there are almost too many too count when it comes to transportation. There's the DOT, of course, the Thruway Authority, the MTA, the Port Authority, the Erie Canal Authority...you get the idea. There are ideas out there...Governor Duval Patrick, of Massachusetts, for example, reorganized that state's transportation agencies, and now they're becoming a center of innovation (for more on that listen to Marketplace this Thursday).
Then there's global warming. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger supported a law requiring municipalities to enact programs to reduce carbon emissions that's already bearing fruit. The law encompasses everything from requiring cleaner fuels to planning denser, less carbon-dependent communities.
Does Cuomo support such a law for New York? Despite his 252-page book, we're no closer to enlightenment.
We're hoping, before we're through, to get more. Guess we'll be shouting out questions at pressers, after all.