By David Andersson
A week ago, US President Donald Trump announced his unsurprising decision to remove the US from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Most of the media ascribed the decision to Trump’s misunderstanding of the issue. Very few members of the press were ready to engage in a real discussion on future strategies regarding the environment and climate change. Trump promised to quit the Paris Agreement while campaigning and millions of people voted for him. This what democracy looks like.
Let’s go deeper in the climate change issue and take a very concrete example concerning New York City and the State of New York. The organization running the bus and subway system (The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA) is controlled by a Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has yet to hire a new boss for the MTA since the former chairman and chief executive stepped down in January. In the meantime, the subway system, which is more than 100 years old, is plagued by breakdowns, delays, and overcrowding.
Instead of moving quickly to find a replacement, Cuomo launched a “genius” public competition to find innovative solutions to the system’s problems. And with Albany’s legislative session ending in two weeks, there are no pending bills, no hearings, and no plans to send more resources to the subway, despite it being the State Legislature’s duty to provide funding and oversight of the MTA.
While Cuomo claims he put an “unprecedented” amount of funding into the MTA’s five-year capital plan, it actually is the smallest, or second smallest, state contribution to the MTA since 2000 when adjusted for inflation, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.There is no better investment in the environment in NYC than the MTA. The system moves millions of workers daily to and from their jobs, brings students to school, senior citizens to community centers, and lovers to a night out at the movies. 57 million tourists a year ride the subway in the “city that never sleeps.” If even a fraction of these people took cars, it would have a tremendous impact on the environment. Imagine running a company that could contribute, at that level, to the transformation of the world. It could be at the forefront of new research on eco-transit, energy-efficiency, comfort-transit, air-pollution, trash recycling…the list is endless.
The real question for the MTA is not how to fix its current problems but rather what should public transportation look like in 10, 20 and 50 years. It is unacceptable to have a governor in a state like NY whose only response is to run a “genius” competition. I wish I could be the next boss of the MTA and be the “genius” in charge of solving one of most interesting challenges facing our society: how to move people everyday in a secure, comfortable, and environment- friendly way at an affordable price. To think about ways to accommodate the handicapped, tourists with luggage, families with strollers. Current conditions in the subway are despicable and come from an antiquated, hundred-year old vision of commuting workers to and from their jobs. We need a vision that is adapted to the 21st century.
I’m much more upset by Cuomo’s inaction concerning climate change then by Trump leaving the Paris agreement, because Trump at least told us he would do nothing and so I had no expectations of progress from him. Trump is not responsible for the climate change and we will have to do much more then bitch against him to make the world a better place. We need to work and address the issues with the people who voted for him and get them on board with the 200 mayors, 10 governors, and hundreds of business leaders committed to the Paris climate agreement.