“I understand once again you want to raise the price of admission to wait for trains that hardly ever run. This is no way to run a system. The service stinks.”
With those words, Martin Gangerksy, a 60-year-old resident of Brighton Beach began what amNew York’s David Freedlander and Marlene Naanes described as a public firing line aimed at the MTA officials trying to defend the upcoming fare hike. While I couldn’t attend the public hearing in Brooklyn last night, I will be going to the November 17 workshop. In the meantime, we’ll have the other news outlets reporting on the series of hearings taking place this week and next.
The night, according to the report, was chock full o’ anti-fare hike folks. Mr. Subway Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign chimed in. “Riders are just getting by financially and this is a real blow to their ability to make it in New York,” he said, and Brooklynites from across the borough joined in the chorus with their alloted three minutes of speaking. The event, in other words, contained few surprised and a lot of disgruntled straphangers.
But it was not all bad news for straphangers looking for fare relief. While MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin and CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander continued to speak as though the hike is all but inevitable, a few politicians in Albany are hoping to deliver enough money so the financially-strapped can scuttle the hike. Will it be enough though?
Annie Karni of The Sun reported yesterday on the happenings in Albany:
State lawmakers today are announcing new legislation that would increase city and state aid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by $660 million, a boost they say could help stave off the fare hike scheduled for February…
“The state has not been giving the MTA its fair share of revenue to operate the system,” state Senator Thomas Duane of Manhattan, who is introducing the bill today, said…
The bill would allot $305.5 million for subway and bus operating expenses from the state budget, as well as $32.3 million for the commuter railroads. The totals would be matched by the city. “I don’t know what the MTA’s thinking is, but this would make a fare hike not inevitable,” Mr. Duane said.
On behalf of the MTA, Soffin continued to state that the MTA needs a $2 billion commitment from New York in order to avoid the fare hike. Astute readers may wonder why the MTA needs so much if they projected a deficit of just a few hundred million next year. The reason, you see, lies in debt payments and perpetuity deals.
The MTA has a series of debt payments it must make over the next few years and a series of ongoing capital construction costs it must meet that extend well past 2008. To meet the various parts of the debt payment and its standard operating budget, the MTA must ensure a steady cash flow for more than just one year. That’s why the MTA wants to institute a fare hike. Higher fares are a reliable stream of steady revenue whereas a one-off bill from Albany with no promise of future commitments simply serves to avoid the inevitable.
I am no fan of the idea of a fare hike, but I am a fan of fiscal stability and prosperity for the MTA. New York’s current growth and future health as a vibrant city depend on it. Until the MTA can find that money in other places — Student Metrocards and overtime pay would be good starting points — carrots from Albany are nothing but half promises and fare hikes deferred.