Saturday, March 21, 2020

Philip Mark Plotch's "Last Subway"

Philip Mark Plotch is an associate professor of political science and director of the Master of Public Administration program at Saint Peter's University. He has served as Director of World Trade Center Redevelopment and Special Projects at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and manager of planning and policy at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Plotch is the award-winning author of Politics Across the Hudson.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Last Subway: The Long Wait for the Next Train in New York City, and reported the following:
The Page 99 test describes conditions that should not be forgotten and reveals a timeless lesson. Elected officials like sexy projects and are willing to ignore basic infrastructure needs to pursue them.

Page 99 describes how New York’s governor in the 1970s promoted building a new covered highway along the West Side of Manhattan that would add more than two hundred acres of landfill in the Hudson River for parks and apartments.

Many environmental and transit advocates, however, opposed the new highway and preferred that New York take the $800 million allocated for it and use the funds for transit improvements, instead. To generate support for his pet project, the governor did something that numerous elected officials have done before and after him – he overestimated the project’s benefits and underestimated its costs.

Even though the environmentalists won, the city's transit system still lost. Because elected officials prioritized grand new projects over basic maintenance work in the 1970s, New York’s subway system rapidly deteriorated. One-third of all the subway cars pulling into stations had broken doors, and nearly as many had lighting problems. Because of cutbacks in maintenance and cleaning, a subway car caught fire nearly seven times a day.

New York’s graffiti-covered trains from the 1970s and 1980s should serve as a reminder of the need to maintain existing resources before embarking on unaffordable endeavors.

The Page 99 test worked! The page reflects the entire book -- tension and drama between powerful players, written in an engaging, accessible, and informative way.
Visit Philip Mark Plotch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue