As the MTA rushes headlong into its key fare hike board meeting next week, the political digs are coming fast and furious, and this time, Bloomberg is getting in on the act. The fun started on Tuesday when Bloomberg started rattling his congestion pricing saber. Lobbying in support of his congestion pricing plan, Bloomberg said that the revenue from the plan could help stave off future fare hikes.
Now, Bloomberg sure does have a point: The projected revenue from the congestion fee plan could, in essence, be a part of an effort to stave off future fare hikes. But that money is more hypothetical than anything else right now. Congestion pricing is far from guaranteed, and even then, the initial revenue will go toward repaying the city for installing the congestion pricing monitoring. Optimistically, the MTA won’t see any congestion fee revenue until 2010. The agency certainly can’t wait that long to shore up its financial future.
As Tuesday turned into Wednesay, Bloomberg grew a little more belligerent. He laid the blame for the New York area’s seemingly sub-par mass transit at the feet of the MTA. “There are too many parts of this region that have not been provided with mass transit and people don’t have any choice other than to use their cars,” Bloomberg said. “And there are too many parts of our mass transit system that are not as fast, efficient and pleasurable as they should be.”
The mayor even went so far as to claim that the city is funding the 7 line extension because he “can’t wait for the MTA to act.”
Hold the phone, Mike. Let’s clear some things up. First, why is the MTA in this financial pickle without the funds necessary to ensure better mass transit access in the region? Because your predecessor helped starve the system, and you haven’t exactly picked up the financial slack. Bloomberg claims the city doesn’t have the funds available to give more to the MTA. Right.
Meanwhile, the city isn’t funding the 7 line extension because the MTA is too slow to act. The city is funding the 7 line extension because it’s hardly a top priority. In the comments on Tuesday, Scott called this project “the pointless extension to nowhere.”
To be fair, this 7 extension isn’t completely useless; there are some obvious benefits to the Hudson Yards and Far West Side. But the city is spending $2.1 billion on a one-stop extension that right now is more of a luxury than anything else. The MTA is using their $2.1 billion to build a much-needed and much-delayed subway line. I have to side with the MTA on this one.
Bloomberg, by the way, still didn’t promise more money for the beleaguered MTA today either. But a few lawmakers think he should. Both TWU Local 100 Preident Roger Toussaint and Straphangers Campaign Lawyer Gene Russianoff called on Bloomberg this week to send more money to the MTA. “You can build a world class transit system, or you can nickel and dime it to death. You can’t do both,” Toussaint said. “Mayor Bloomberg can be helpful to millions of New Yorkers who rely on mass transit and to the local economy that it powers – all he has to do is speak up.”
“How New York City has gotten off the hook for a system that moves its residents and fuels business and tourism is pretty unbelievable,” Russianoff noted.
Yet for all of this political in-fighting, the biggest news may be the worst of the MTA: The panel currently considering congestion pricing may recommend to cut the fee from $8 to $4 and move the toll barrier south 26 blocks to 68th St. Needless to say, this would significantly reduce the $390 million the mayor claims the MTA stands to reap from congestion pricing.
It’s just another day on “As the Congestion Pricing/Fare Hike Debate Turns.” Stay tuned for more. In politics, there’s always more.
Photo of the old tokens and a Metrocard by flickr user MacRonin47.