MTA sets March 25 as ‘drop-dead’ dateBy
On March 25, this Doomsday budget-Richard Ravitch-MTA drama will come to a head for it is on that day that the MTA Board will have to decide whether or not to approve draconian service cuts and rampant fare hikes. Start your clocks, folks, because we’re in for a wild political ride.
“The drop-dead date is March 25, which is when the MTA board of directors meets and will vote whether to hit the riders with a 23 percent fare hike and massive service cuts or whether the state legislature and Governor Paterson will come to the rescue of the riding public,” Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, said to NY1’s Bobby Cuza.
Meanwhile, New York State leaders are already lining up behind the Ravitch proposals. Whether the state legislature will is another question entirely. Cuza has more on this story:
The Paterson administration said it’s already drafting legislation to implement the recommendations of the Ravitch Commission, including a new payroll tax and new tolls on the East River bridges, to allow for a much smaller fare hike. The MTA will be sending a delegation to Albany next week to lobby legislators who go back to work this Wednesday…
Last week, MTA Executive Director Lee Sander said the proposed hikes are not just a scare tactic. “If we don’t get the money from Albany, we would have to do this. Having said that, do I hope that this will have a stimulative effect on our legislators and further encourage them to pass the recommendations of the ravitch commission? Yes,” said Sander.
While the MTA may also get money from a federal stimulus bill, it’s likely those dollars will go toward construction projects and won’t prevent a fare hike. As for the mayor, he said he has faith in Albany. “I’m optimistic that they’ll do something. But right now, if they don’t do anything, we’re going to have Draconian increases in fares and some cuts in services,” said Bloomberg.
We’ll be hearing a lot of that over the next two and a half months as New York’s straphangers and rail commuters await for a final judgment.
As this drama unfolds, it will be interesting to see how newspaper support lines up behind Ravitch. While The New York Times recently endorsed the Ravtich recommendations, other city newspapers haven’t embraced the full slate of tolls and taxes. Last week, the Downtown Express, while voicing approval of the tax-and-toll plan, urged state officials to consider higher on-street parking rates and vehicle registration fees as an alternate possibility.
In the end, this will boil down to the political feasibility of the chosen plan. While only three percent of Brooklyn drivers would be hit by a toll while nearly 60 percent stand to lose out if service cuts and fare hikes come to pass, for some reason, tolls are a political no-no. They might best for the city, but politicians are loathe to wreck their re-election chances. Either way, the Doomsday clock is ticking, and in 78 days, we’ll know what the future holds for our subway system.