Il Bocca Al Lupo

11-08-2009  Brooklyn, NY

As most of you know, I love subways. Even the odd smells that frequently emanate during summertime, squealing brakes, malfunctioning doors, scratchy intercoms, noisy panhandlers, rush-hour cars packed like sardine cans, sticky floors, wet seats and arrogant Jesus freaks that suddenly start preaching at the top of their lungs. Despite all of this, riding the subway from A to B is usually one of the very few moments of solace I get during hectic work weeks. It’s the one time to quietly listen to music, read a book or simply ponder the past, present and future.

During the early 70’s, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) was having somewhat of a renaissance. After years of neglect, the city decided to revamp the system by renovating stations, introducing new trains, and adding employees to assist riders during their trips. Less than ten years later, these changes became an after thought. The city had lost too much money during the economic downturn and couldn’t fund the MTA. Most projects fell by the wayside and the subways began a slow downturn that has continued into today’s era.

Today, we have a system that is a shell of its former self. Not only has the MTA raised prices, but the service is an absolute mess. If customers want to travel after dark on weeknights or during the weekends, they should expect to take numerous trains where they usually need just one. Express trains run local and most lines have been bastardized to run on others. Basically, all transit maps are null and void because they serve no purpose. I’ve gotten calls from friends who have lived here for years and ended up in odd places because the maps weren’t sound. In a nutshell, nothing can be trusted in the New York City subway system.

To top it off, pension plans for MTA employees have sunk the organization so far in debt, it’s nearly impossible to get out of the red. I hate seeing 70 year-old people standing on a crowded, delayed train, paying more so that 55 year-old MTA employees can live like kings on the city’s arm. The budgets are also terribly faulty, with strange surpluses coming here and there while statements come back bloody during budgeting season. Corruption is rampant. One example I wrote about earlier this year concerned the Atlantic Yards project. For land that was appraised at $214 million, the MTA took the absolute lowest bid of $100 million. When that wasn’t paid, they didn’t break contract and try to negotiate with other parties, they lowered the original amount to $20 million upfront (with the remaining 80 million to be paid over the course of 22 years)!! Who ends up paying for that difference? The commuters who rely on the subways every day. As long as buffoons like Howard H. Roberts continue to head the Authority, the downward spiral will not cease.

Il Boca Al Lupo is an Italian phrase that means “Good Luck”, but literally translates as “into the wolf’s mouth”. The appropriate response to this is Crepi Lupo, or “May the wolf die”. In all my years of riding the subways, I’ve never seen this much chaos and disruption in service. Every time you ride the subways after dark or on a weekend, you’re literally going into the wolf’s mouth and need as much luck as possible to reach your destination without a service change sabotaging your trip. These recent pitfalls have literally turned the NYCTS into a dangerous place… a reeking, craggy, unreliable cesspool of kickbacks and faulty budgets. Considering this, I only have one thing to say about them… Crepi Lupo!

7 Responses to “Il Bocca Al Lupo”

  1. With all the service problems and fare hikes, it is a pleasure to now drive to work. Same service problems with the LIRR, awful. Unexplained, never-ending delays during rush hour at least once or twice a week. The worst 20 minutes of my day used to be 10 minutes to work and 10 minutes from work on the 7 train after the LIRR. Like I have said many times, anyone who criticized John Rocker for his comments never rode the 7 train during rush hour in August when the AC wasn’t working properly. Dealing with traffic on the LIE doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

    Generally speaking, pensions are earned and deserved. Just because the pension systems have not been well managed in the past 30 years, you can’t fault those who receive them. They have worked their hours and paid their dues, for the most part. The newspapers also paint a very one sided view of pay raises for the MTA and other agencies as well. The talked about 11-12% hike at the MTA, for a mid level manager making $55K per year for example, is not much money at all and cost of NYC living is NEVER considered. The total number of $45M or whatever it is doesn’t tell the true story, it’s not really very much per worker per year…MUCH less than a bonus of someone working at a private company may receive each year.

    It’s a VERY poorly run business where it eventually comes back to the tax payers and commuters, no different than an AIG or a Lehman.

  2. Have you ever spoken to a MTA employee? Station workers are wasted salaries since they don’t do anything but direct you to a machine in a surly manner. The “engineers” who work the tracks are amazing. One man “working”, while 5 others watch. All getting paid overtime and night differential to swing a flashlight and delay the public’s commute and waste their money. By and large, I don’t blame the pensioners for being pensioners. I blame them for wearing the MTA logo as a shield to hide from work while we pay for it. Cutting services and making it cost more yields these results.

  3. Station workers make up a small percentage of MTA employees and tell me you wouldn’t be surly locked in an underground, little glass box while machines are replacing you.
    Not sure why I’m even defending them a little, I hate the MTA. Damn flashlight swingin engineer bastards!

  4. Funny you mention that, Vic. Just last night around 1 AM I saw a slew of transit workers diligently “repairing” and “checking” track at the 7th Avenue station (F Line) in Brooklyn. They seemed to have developed a wonderful system where one or two workers flash their lights around the tracks while the other 20 lounge on the exit steps, blocking the customers who pay their salaries. Looks like their surveying isn’t working out so well either. From today’s Times:

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/service-disruption-on-no-1-subway-line-persists/

  5. how many customers did they actually block at 1 AM on a Wednesday morning??? :)

  6. In a city “that never sleeps” in the middle of tourist season on a weak dollar, I’m sure there were one or two confused foreign nationals running around making sure our city doesn’t topple over on debt.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/service-disruption-on-no-1-subway-line-persists/

    Mike! Mike! He’s our man! If he can’t do it, get someone who can!

  7. Just imagine I read it twice. While I am not as skilled on this subject, I tally with your closings because they make sense. Gives Thanks and goodluck to you.

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