That’s No Way to Run a Railroad, Subway or School System

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I’d suggest reading this fascinating article from the New York Times about how New Yorkers spend an obscene amount of money but get a subway system that is trending towards barely functional. The story is basically that the system has been mismanaged and plundered by various politicians and political interests and safety and reliability is in steep decline. The problems go much deeper than the below excerpt, but in the end the below excerpt encapsulates the overall problem:

According to a former union president, John Samuelsen, the organization has secured better deals over the past eight years than any other public labor group in New York.

“I look back with satisfaction on what, together, we have accomplished,” Mr. Samuelsen said in a September letter announcing that he was becoming the union’s international president.

Each of three deals signed from 2009 to 2017 cost more than the M.T.A. anticipated, forcing it to take money from other parts of the budget. The 2014 deal, which cost $525 million, was funded by tapping into a pay-as-you-go account that was intended to pay for capital work, former officials said.

Subway workers now make an average of $170,000 annually in salary, overtime and benefits, according to a Times analysis of data compiled by the federal Department of Transportation. That is far more than in any other American transit system; the average in cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington is about $100,000 in total compensation annually.

The pay for managers is even more extraordinary. The nearly 2,500 people who work in New York subway administration make, on average, $280,000 in salary, overtime and benefits. The average elsewhere is $115,000.

Nearly 2,500 people make $280,000 per year for administering a system in deep decline. Nice work if you can get it. So if you run your school system too much like MTA runs the subway, and other states do less of that, slowly but surely you might see something like this, even if you spend twice as much per pupil:

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