SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Big-city mayors love to ride subways, after they're elected. Their iron-clad official automobiles may be comfortable, efficient and Wi-Fi'd, but a politician who rides the subway now and then is better optics, as political consultants put it - a mayor standing, sweating and bouncing between stops with his or her constituents. Mayor Emanuel of Chicago rides the train to work twice a week. New York's former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who could afford his own railroad, liked to ride the subway, chat with riders and pose for photos. Mayor Garcetti of Los Angeles rides his city's metro trains now and then, maybe to alert Angelinos they actually have a subway.
This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York decided to take the A train from lower Manhattan to a Midtown tech conference near Penn Station. The mayor left himself 15 minutes, which is shaving his New York seconds pretty close. But the A train was delayed; track problems, transit officials said later. The mayor simmered on the platform, encircled by his police guards. He trudged upstairs to try to get back into his security vehicle. But his driver had left to pick him up at the tech conference. His car turned around to fetch him.
And once the mayor was back on plush cushions, he sent an email to his chief of staff and the head of his police detail. We waited for 20 minutes for an express, only to hear there were major delays, the mayor thumbed. We need a better system. The mayor's thumb might've stumbled a bit, too. Somehow, he wound up inadvertently sending a copy of his message to a New York Times reporter.
A subway rider named Matt Foreman read the mayor's complaint about waiting and scolded him on Twitter - Waah. Waah. Waah. Angela Curry of Harlem said she often waits 30 minutes for the A Train. I wish they would come faster, but nothing changes, she told the New York Post. If he's going to ride the subway, I would tell him to just get used to it like the rest of us. That very morning, Mayor de Blasio announced he would increase the city's contribution to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to $657 million dollars. But the MTA says $2.5 billion is needed to repair an aging, overworked subway system beset by breakdowns and delays. The mayor may hope the state of New York pays the rest, but to put the subway predicament in New York terms, can you pay for a stale bagel and expect to get hot pastrami?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE THE A TRAIN")
ELLA FITZGERALD: (Singing) You must take the A train to go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem...