OK, those are strong words for a headline, and I'll explain, but first, let me beg you to forward this email to every New York State resident you know. If you are a NYS resident, please URGENTLY phone your State Senator (instructions below) in support of the plan--known as the Ravitch plan--to bail out our transit system.
Bloggers, please feel free link to or post this text for your readers. Everyone else who is internet-savvy, please Digg, Stumble or Twitter about it. New York needs your help!
Across the country, citizens are surging into our mass transit systems in the highest numbers in 50 years. This is great news for the planet since a subway ride, on average, causes less than a third of the greenhouse gas emissions of a car ride. It's also great news for the people since it means we can stop spending the average 15 percent of our incomes on running our cars; our city children can stop getting asthma from our exhaust fumes.
The problem is that, in the midst of this surge in ridership, economic conditions mean many of our nation's transit systems are having to cut service and raise fares, forcing the recent converts back to their cars again.
Here in New York, though, the Ravitch plan to avoid service cuts and minimize fare hikes actually has a chance. If you are New York State resident, your support is crucial. Please URGENTLY call your State Senator (see instructions at the bottom of this post).
Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, the lower house, says he has enough votes to pass the measure that would fund the transit system by levying a small tax on commuters and instituting a $2 toll on bridges that currently allow cars to pass free into Manhattan. The measure is also supported by Governor Paterson.
In other words, recession or not, we in New York City might keep our transit system intact just when we need it most.
Except for five problems. The names of those five problems are Democratic Senators Ruben Diaz, Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Pedro Espada of the Bronx and Carl Kruger and Kevin Parker of Brooklyn. They are threatening to rupture the small Democratic majority in the State's upper house by voting with the Republicans--who care less about helping their transit-dependent citizens than painting a tax-and-spend picture of the Democrats.
Now, I know it may look like I am giving knee-jerk support to the Democrats here, but if you remember, I blasted the Democrats for not supporting the toll-based congestion-pricing scheme in New York City last year. My motive is not partisan; it is environmental and supportive of a high quality of life. I support a robust, good, pleasant, transit system for Americans. It's good for the planet and good for the people.
But here in New York, Diaz, Espada, Hassell-Thompson, Charger and Parker have turned against the people. Their argument is that the burden will fall unfairly on their outer-borough constituents who drive to Manhattan. But they are being duplicitous. According to the Daily News, inhabitants of their districts overwhelmingly use transit rather than cars by a factor of ten to one. And those transit riders will all face service cuts if the Ravitch plan does not pass.
So what's the real reason for their opposition? Holding the people hostage for political gain. It's rumored that the rebels want something from the Democratic party leadership that they're not getting--so they're causing as much trouble as they can till they get it. What that "it" is, exactly, is something that only they and the party leadership know.
But they need not prevail, especially in these times when the good of the people should be coming before petty, careerist politics.
A vote on this issue could come as early as this week.
We New York State residents must URGENTLY let all our Senators know that we support the Ravitch transit plan. All you have to do is call the central Senate switchboard at (518) 455-2800, say that you'd like your senator's office, and give your zip code. Once you're connected, just say that you'd like your senator to strongly support the Ravitch transit plan.
PS Don't forget to email this post to as many New York State residents as you can.
PPS By the way, I'd love for folks to leave comments here at the blog (NoImpactMan.com) saying how their phone calls with their senators went.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.