Express Train to the Past

To the Editor:

The editorial “The Soggy Subways” [Aug. 20] reminded me of history everyone has forgotten.

The original B.M.T. (Brooklyn Manhattan Rapid Transit) and I.R.T. (Interboro Rapid Transit) subway systems were constructed and paid for by the private sector.

They supported both development and economic growth of numerous neighborhoods in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. As part of the franchise agreement signed by owners, City Hall had direct control over the fare structure. For a period of time, owners actually made a profit with a very low fare.

After decades passed, the costs of salaries, maintenance, power, supplies and equipment pressured owners to ask City Hall for permission to raise the fares. This additional revenue was needed to keep up with maintaining a good state of repair, increase the frequency of service, purchase new subway cars, pay employee salary increases and support planned system expansion.

Politicians more interested in the next re-election (and subscribing to the old Roman philosophy of free bread and circuses) refused this request each year for well over a decade. As a result, in order to survive, owners of both systems began looking elsewhere to reduce costs and stay in business. They started curtailing basic maintenance and cut corners to survive.

In the 1930’s, New York City began building and financing construction of the new IND (Independent Subway). This new municipal system provided direct competition to both the I.R.T. and B.M.T. Big Brother eventually made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: The owners folded and sold out to City Hall.

Actions speak louder than words. If municipal elected officials feel they could do a better job running the nation’s largest subway and bus system, why not step up to the plate now and regain control of its destiny?

You have to admire the brave private-sector entrepreneurs who operate the remaining handful of bus, commuter van, ferry and pedicabs who somehow survive in today’s anti-free-market transportation-provider environment.

Larry Penner
Great Neck, N.Y.

Express Train to the Past