Tag Archives: MTA Capital Plan

The MTA (and New York State and the New Federal Infrastructure Plan): Five-Plus Decades of Investing in the Suburbs and Disinvesting in the City

The era of large-scale federal infrastructure investment, from the 1950s through the 1970s, coincided with the era of suburban development and urban decline.  I don’t think that was a coincidence.  Cities had paid for their own infrastructure with local money, were still paying bonds for that infrastructure, and it was aging. The federal government then paid for brand new, up to date infrastructure for suburbs, and for rural areas that became suburbs, with taxes collected in part in cities, even as urban infrastructure declined.  Federal investment was limited to new infrastructure only at the time.  Most older central cities never recovered, and those that did only began to do so in the early 1980s, after the Reagan Administration cut federal investment and added local flexibility to how it was used.  More of it was then used to fix existing infrastructure, not just subsidize new suburban and exurban development.

Now it is 50 to 70 years later and the infrastructure of the suburbs is aging.  And because of lower densities, and thus more liner feet of road, water pipe, and sewer pipe per taxpayer, it will be more costly to replace with local taxes.  Some in the Strong Towns movement believe the suburbs are facing the sort of infrastructure decline the cities faced 50 years ago as a result. 

https://granolashotgun.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/teachers-pipes-and-pavement/

An issue that will be most acute in private communities responsible for their own local infrastructure, where people live so they can control who walks on their streets and not share a tax base with pre-1960 neighborhoods. Who will pay up when private sewage treatment plants fail and have to be replaced?  Did you hear about what happened at that collapsed Florida condo, where residents had argued for years about paying for fixes before disaster struck?

The older generations who live in these suburbs are used to getting things, but not fully paying for them.  The “I’ve got mine jack,” tax cut generations.  And here we have another federal infrastructure bill, enacted by suburban and Sunbelt Baby Boomers according to their preferred lifestyle, a lifestyle that poorer Millennials cannot afford and the global environment cannot sustain, to be paid for by those Millennials in the future, because most of it going to funded by soaring federal debts. With higher levels of governments (federal and state) making the choices as to how even the future money of city residents will be spent, how will New York and other older cities fare this time?

As an analogy this post will compare the suburban and city projects that the MTA promised in the Program for Action, released in early 1968 when it as formed, with the system expansions and maintenance of existing infrastructure that actually took place in the five-plus decades since.  And go from there.

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Infrastructure: Census of Governments Data

Note:  this is an obsolete post based on the 2012 Census of Governments.  Read this one, based on the 2017, 2007 and 1997 Census of Governments instead.  

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2020/05/26/transportation-infrastructure-2017-census-of-governments-data/

Or, for decades of data on infrastructure capital construction for all 50 states, read this.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2018/12/12/sold-out-futures-by-state-in-2016-debt-and-infrastructure/

Continuing with the older post as written years ago.

The United States, based on press reports, is heading for an infrastructure crisis that today’s politicians are desperate to ignore, in the hopes that their generation can avoid paying for it and pass on before the consequences hit those coming after. In the suburbs and Sunbelt the post-WWII infrastructure, often built with federal money redistributed from older cities, is reaching the point where substantial rehabilitation and replacement will be required. But no one wants to pay. In New York State, one sees this in the financial drama over the replacement of the 1954-built Tappan Zee Bridge, and the insistence that tolls be kept far lower on the new bridge than in the Port Authority Crossings to the south, or the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority crossings within New York City.

Even where the infrastructure has been maintained money has been borrowed for past maintenance, and the interest on that debt now consumes revenues that were supposed to be reserved for transportation. There is no real money for the next MTA Capital plan, most of which is maintenance. Almost all the money being paid into the New York State transportation trust fund for roads and bridges is going to past debts, as is all the money going in to the New Jersey transportation trust fund. Twenty years of selfishness by Generation Greed politicians has come home to roost, and the wolf is at the door. And yet their more recent replacements – New York City Mayor DeBlasio, New York State Governor Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Christie, President Obama, and whoever will follow the indicted and should-be indicted members of the state legislatures and Congress – want to do nothing but close their eyes and hope it goes away. It is in this depressing context that the following post will review data on Infrastructure revenues and expenditures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Census of Governments.

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Where is Jim Brennan Hiding?

It’s approaching midnight for the downstate New York transit system; do you know where Jim Brennan is? Brennan, the State Assemblymember assigned to my district, is the titular head of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, whose responsibilities include the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. That didn’t matter much until a few weeks ago, when Sheldon Silver was still in charge. Brennan’s deal was do what Silver said, and in exchange Silver and his interest groups would pretty much guarantee Brennan would face no elections, aside from a rare challenge of one Don Quixote

http://newyorkcourtcorruption.blogspot.com/2009/10/john-ohara-wins-his-12-year-fight.html

or another.

http://www.ipny.org/littlefield/civicunion2020.html

But suddenly Sheldon Silver is no longer the Speaker of the Assembly. With a new speaker in charge, no one knows what will happen. Suddenly it’s show time for this particular Generation Greed careerist, but he still seems to be hiding behind the curtain. And no one seems to be bothering him there.

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