Imagine all the great pup public officials, especially adamant transit-backers, could enjoy if they took transit regularly. And yet transit board members in DC, and Philly typically steer clear of transit. Other than photo ops, Mitt Romney has trouble recalling any time he’s used transit. LA Mayor Antonio “Subway to the Sea” Villaraigosa wags his finger at motorists who eschew transit, but prefers traveling in a GMC Yukon. But the MetroCard Mayor has access to our nation’s most extensive transit system. Certainly, he has no use for SUVs:
He is public transportation’s loudest cheerleader, boasting that he takes the subway “virtually every day.” He has told residents who complain about overcrowded trains to “get real” and he constantly encourages New Yorkers to follow his environmentally friendly example. But Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s commute is not your average straphanger’s ride. On mornings that he takes the subway from home, Mr. Bloomberg is picked up at his Upper East Side town house by a pair of king-size Chevrolet Suburbans. The mayor is driven 22 blocks to the subway station at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue, where he can board an express train to City Hall. His drivers zip past his neighborhood station, a local subway stop a five-minute walk away. That means Mr. Bloomberg Ã¢â?¬â?? whose much-discussed subway rides have become an indelible component of his public image Ã¢â?¬â?? spends a quarter of his ostensibly subterranean commute in an S.U.V. … Mr. Bloomberg, who entered politics as a self-made media mogul, struck a populist note early in his mayoral campaign by pledging to use mass transit. Since starting at City Hall he has invited reporters, photographers and television news anchors to ride along with him. The image of the billionaire straphanger has paid enormous political dividends. One transit group designated him the “MetroCard mayor,” and Newsday lauded him as the city’s “regular Joe Commuter.” Shortly after he took office, The New York Times declared Mr. Bloomberg “the first subway-riding mayor.” And his tales from the underground Ã¢â?¬â?? for example, getting stranded on a northbound No. 4 train for half an hour Ã¢â?¬â?? have made for useful anecdotes at his news conferences. Mr. Bloomberg’s use of the subway to get to work appears to have declined over time. In January 2002, he reported taking the train all but one day of his first three weeks. Nowadays, it appears, the S.U.V. is his primary mode of transportation. Based on [NY Times] reporters’ observations, the mayor took the subway to work about twice a week.
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.