How Poor Public Transit Makes Idiots of Us All

This post originally appeared on the London School of Economics Policy Blog.

For more on the public transit crisis, join us for our October 13th forum “Getting Back on Track: The New York Transit Crisis.

By Kafui Attoh

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848

There is perhaps nothing more idiotic than a city with poor public transit. The typical North American city may, in this sense, be the paragon of idiocy. As many have long noted, the US remains rather unique amongst developed nations in the reluctance of its citizens to board anything resembling – gasp!—a public bus.  In 2012, only 7 percent of all US residents used public transit on a daily basis. A whopping 51 percent reported never using public transit at all.  For many, of course, the reasons are clear enough. Beyond the “absurd primacy of the automobile in American life,” public transit in the US suffers the same underfunded fate as so much else that is “public” in this country. To quote John Kenneth Galbraith we remain a society that is “privately rich and publicly poor” and nowhere is this more evident than in the sorry state of urban mass transit.

Only this past summer, malfunctions with New York City’s century old signaling system drew national headlines after millions of subways riders complained of excessive delays, overcrowding, and of being stranded at their respective stops. In the previous summer a spate of track fires in Washington DC’s metro not only led to service delays, and the launch of the semi-ironic website “ismetroonfire.com” but several hospitalizations from smoke inhalation. Where this is the reality in two of our most transit-dependent cities, it is undoubtedly worse in smaller cities where transit often remains the domicile of the poor and where suburban sprawl makes commuting via bus slow and inconvenient. Continue reading How Poor Public Transit Makes Idiots of Us All

Event: Getting Back on Track: The New York Transit Crisis (10/13)

Friday, October 13th, 2017
8:30am-11:30am
Murphy Institute, 25 W. 43rd St., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10036

RSVP HERE

This forum will explore the nature and causes of the current mass transit crisis, and will focus on solutions that will enable New York to sustain itself as a world-class city. During the course of two panels, speakers will offer strategies to modernize and maintain the City’s transit systems, with responses from local elected leaders on the crisis and policies to remedy it.

  • Andrew Bata, Regional Manager North America, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
  • Robert Paaswell, Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, City College of New York and Director Emeritus, University Transportation Research Center (UTRC)
  • John Samuelsen, President, TWU International
  • City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation
  • City Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor
  • Kafui Attoh, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, Murphy Institute

Additional speakers to be announced.

Photo by Timothy Vogel via flickr (CC BY-NC)

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Maria

As the tragic aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria continues, we in the Murphy community are reminded that the struggles of Puerto Rico residents are our struggles as well. Last week, the New York Times featured an article highlighting community efforts in New York to aid with disaster relief, and quoted Murphy student John Carlos Rosario:

“There are people in the center of the island with no gas, no water,” said John Carlos Rosario, 25, a Puerto Rican student at the City University of New York. He finally was able to contact his girlfriend in Puerto Rico after six days, only to find out that she was also out of cash. She went to three towns, and no banks had cash. “We need rescue, we need help,” he said.

Our thoughts go out to all of those both within and outside of the Murphy community who have been and continue to be affected by the disaster.

Read the full article here, and read this primer from ProPublica to learn how best to donate after a disaster.

Photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos via US Department of Defense. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

New Labor Forum Highlights: Oct 2nd, 2017

The New Labor Forum has launched a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

A number of contemporary economists and political observers have begun to argue that remedies for the devastating consequences of neoliberalism can be found in the economic and social arrangements associated with information-technology. They detect therein the makings of a post-capitalist future.  In the current issue of New Labor Forum, U.S. historian Howard Brick takes issue with the info-tech disciples. Brick also considers naive what he views as their over reliance on spontaneous collective action, and a disregard for the work of building solidarity and systematic organizing so essential to socialist and labor movements. We include a link to Brick’s article here, as well as an interview Laura Flanders conducts with Paul Mason, author of Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, a leading theoretician of the view that the digital world cannot be assimilated into the accumulation process of capitalism and that it contains the seeds of an alternative economic model.

Whether or not a post-capitalist future lies on the horizon, the gig economy has arrived and is already shaping the conditions and imaginings of millions of workers. In our current installment of “Working-Class Voices,” Clynton Lowry, a young art handler who crates, transports, and assembles artwork,  draws a compelling picture of the simultaneous attraction and exploitation of this sort of gig work, as well as the inherent obstacles it poses to worker solidarity.

Table of Contents

  1. Info-Tech Is Not the New Utopia/ Howard Brick, New Labor Forum
  2. Paul Mason on Post-Capitalism and “A Guide to Our Future”/ Interview on The Laura Flanders Show
  3. The Ecstasy and Exploitation of Art Handling/ Clynton Lowry & Kressent Pottenger,  New Labor Forum

Photo by paul.comstock via flickr (CC-BY)

Video: The Taylor Law in Perspective at 50

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Public Employees Fair Employment Act, commonly known as the Taylor Law. This New York law was one of the first state laws to grant public workers the right to unionize, to require public employers and unions to bargain in good faith over working conditions, and to mandate conciliation of bargaining impasses.

Yesterday, the Murphy Institute, in conjunction with Hunter’s National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Roosevelt House, sponsored a series of panels and conversations examining the Taylor Law in historical context, and exploring the future of public sector unionization and collective bargaining.

Missed the event or want to see it again? You can watch it here.

Announcing the 20th Anniversary Issue of New Labor Forum

The right-wing’s decades-long attack on public sector unionism is slated for a hearing before the Supreme Court later this fall in the Janus v. AFSCME case. The September 2017 issue of New Labor Forum contemplates the probable implications and strategic options facing public sector unions once the ruling is handed down.

Also under contemplation in the Fall 2017 issue is the historically troubled, but occasionally productive, relationship between organized labor and civil rights organizations. Strengthening that alliance in the years ahead will prove critical to the fate of labor and racial justice movements. The journal examines the historical obstacles to such alliances, and suggests new grounds on which to reinvigorate those efforts under current circumstances.

Subscribe to New Labor Forum and gain full access to in-depth analysis on issues like these.

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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