The real bad news, of course, came yesterday afternoon when the agency announced that the service upgrades promised to the public following the fare hike will be shelved for now. Due to a revenue gap of over $20 million, the MTA is not prepared to extend service on the G, B and W lines as well as the IRT lines starting in June. While the agency says that, if their finances improve, they could implement these service improvements in the next three months, the odds of that happening are low.
On the service, acknowledging this reality so soon after the fare hike is a terrible public relations move by the MTA. As Kevin pointed out on this site, this announcement hits the MTA at its weakest point. The agency, long viewed with skepticism by New Yorkers, has lost any shred of credibility when it needs it the most. Now, the public will not believe that the MTA ever planned to deliver the promised service upgrades. The authority simply used those upgrades to sell the public on a fare hike. And forget congestion pricing; if the MTA can’t make on good on simple service improvements, how are they ever expected to secure the revenue from the congestion pricing plan and ensure that it too goes to service upgrades that will probably never arrive?
Meanwhile, the suspension of the service upgrades was but one piece of bad news for the MTA. A new Quinnipiac poll about congestion pricing revealed a deep-rooted public skepticism toward the agency. On the surface, the poll seems to bring good news to the MTA. After all, two-thirds of all New Yorkers support congestion pricing if the money goes toward transit.
But beware the cloud behind this silver lining. Fifty percent of poll respondents say it is “not too likely” or “not likely at all” the the money would actual go to transit. Respondents don’t feel that politicians would actually deliver on their promises to send congestion pricing revenue to the MTA, and in light of today’s announcement, the other half probably now feel that the MTA would use that money to cover operating expenses and revenue shortfalls rather than investing in proper service increases.
Finally, slipped into an amNew York story about the service changes came the even more bad news: The MTA is anticipating fewer on-time trains in 2008 by nearly five percent. According to Marlene Naanes, “The agency lowered the goal for on-time trains to 92 percent in 2008, down from the 97-percent level that’s been in place for the past two years. Transit officials did not say Monday why they lowered the goal, but said that reasons for delays include more track work on the line and customers holding doors.”
So let me guess this straight: On the same day we find out we’re paying more for the same service, we actually find out that we’re paying more for less on-time service. Yikes. As the ghosts of the oft-delayed trains from the 1970s fill our heads, the MTA can look forward to Tuesday simply because it’s not Monday. The news can’t get any worse today, right?
Photo of the old MTA logo by flickr user joelogon.