Home MTA Politics From Long Island, fare hike hypocrisy

From Long Island, fare hike hypocrisy

by Benjamin Kabak

The illustrious State Senator Lee Zeldin seemingly enjoys himself a tea party in the traditional sense of the phrase. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. Nowhere is that more obvious than in his dealings with the MTA. After spending two years trying to take $1.5 billion away from the transit agency, Zeldin had the audacity to rail, loudly and broadly, against the current fare hike proposal.

In a statement that seems to ignore how all MTA agencies will be raising tolls and fares, Zeldin focused on his Long Island constituents’ key concern: LIRR fares. Let’s look at what Zeldin had to say.

“While proposing an average increase of 8.19% to 9.31% for LIRR riders, the MTA offers zero data of total projected revenue estimated to be brought in through the drastic fare and toll hikes throughout the MTA region. It’s ironic that the press release is posted under the ‘transparency’ feature to the MTA’s website, when the MTA fails to make any mention of the projected fiscal impact of these hikes on its budget.”

Zeldin cannot be forgiven for not paying attention as MTA CEO and Chairman Joe Lhota has said over and over again that each fare hike proposal will generate approximately $277 million in annual revenue for the MTA. If I know that, our elected officials should know that as well. He continues:

“While the MTA states that ‘year over year controllable costs’ have been reduced by 0.3%, there is still much more work to be done. Some of the areas ripe for further efficiencies include further reducing overtime, decreasing the number of excessive salaries over $200,000, reforming work rules, selling additional real estate, reducing the excessive number of managers and supervisors, and so much more.”

Here, Zeldin isn’t wrong, but he’s not right either. The MTA has already drastically reduced overtime expenditures, and at some point, it’s actually more cost-efficient to pay time-and-a-half for overtime than it is to hire new employees. Some of this other critiques — particularly with regard to reforming work rules — require action from Albany, and I have yet to see Zeldin take an active role in anything resembling work rule reform. Selling real estate is a one-time fix for a systemic problem. He went on:

The days are over for $2 billion taxpayer funded bailouts with no questions asked. Meanwhile, we are also not going to play the victim against sustained threats of significant fare and toll hikes or dramatic reductions of service as the primary alternatives. The time has come for the MTA to do more to look within for cost savings and start running more like a competitive business, than a bloated government bureaucracy.”

Zing! The only thing missing here from Bash-the-MTA Bingo is a claim of two sets of books. Here, it’s entirely unclear what Zeldin is talking about. Who’s playing the victim against threats of anything? The MTA is raising fares because it has to generate a few hundred million dollars, and they’ve laid those figures out on the table. If anything, this is classic victim-blaming by a State Senator.

It’s worth remember too what Zeldin has done as a State Senator. He ran for office on a platform focusing around repealing the MTA Payroll Mobility Tax, and he succeeded in rolling back approximately $300 million of that tax — coincidentally the same amount the MTA has to raise for this fare hike. Not satisfied, he has continued to call for a further reduction in the payroll tax rate without offering any substantial changes or sources of revenue in return. For this Long Island representative, it’s all been about blame without accepting any responsibility to dictate sound transportation policy, and he’s at it again.

New York, these are your politicians.

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Larry Littlefield October 17, 2012 - 1:10 pm

“New York, these are your politicians.”

Because these are many of your people in the era of Generation Greed. Which is why we are in the early stages of an institutional collapse.

You have heard echos of this around the subway fare for 100 years. The sort of people who left NYC in ruins in the 1970s have gone statewide, even nationwide.

Roxie October 17, 2012 - 1:59 pm

it’s funny because the same people who left nyc fucked up in the 70s are having kids and those kids are moving back into the places their parents abandoned and left to urban decay in the 70s because Hip And Urban is the new cool thing, and are now proceeding to price out the destitute people that moved in in the interim

the cycle keeps on rollin’

Bolwerk October 17, 2012 - 3:29 pm

Those who left in the 1950s-1970s had their kids already coming back in the 1980s, and it’s definitely not all out of hippitude. Much of it has to do with the fact that there wasn’t (and isn’t) really anywhere else to go, except to stay with your parents. Those who really want a suburban lifestyle go to Texas or Arizona or some other soulless authoritarian cesspit; there isn’t room on Long Island or the metro area, given the development environment.

I take the hipster thing to be a much more isolated occurrence. Pasty privileged kids who don’t need to work may have turned WIlliamsburg and parts of Manhattan into a suburban mall, but that doesn’t really explain the the draw of places like Sunnyside or even wealthier Park Slope.

SEAN October 17, 2012 - 6:32 pm

Those who really want a suburban lifestyle go to Texas or Arizona or some other soulless authoritarian cesspit; there isn’t room on Long Island or the metro area, given the development environment.


What a choice of words, I couldn’t put it that way if I tried. The ecconomic realities prove that the Levettown ideal doesn’t work anymore & as a result, the production home builders are turning to urban style development to save their companies from there overbuilding mistakes over the past few years. One of the more interesting projects is http://www.navalsquare.com in Philadelphia.

Justin Samuels October 18, 2012 - 1:45 pm

I don’t think that there’s a return to NYC because NYC is supposedly such a fun place and the suburbs are so boring.

Ever worked in a corporate job or know people who do? 40 hours is a rarity. Often people put in 60, 70, or 80 hours. After working like that, who wants to deal with a LIRR ride all the way back to Suffolk? Keep in mind higher gas prices as well as always rising MTA rail commuter prices have ended in bargain for living in the suburbs (post WW2, it was cheaper). So unless you can get a job on LI (and there are those that do) it isn’t necessarily worth living out there. Ditto for Jersey.

So in order to save time, a number of people have decided to live CLOSER to work, and that more than anything fuels gentrification. Often neighborhoods in the process of gentrifying have little to do and little facilities, but as more people with more income move in the neighborhood, then places to go and facilities open up

Bolwerk October 19, 2012 - 3:42 am

But at least until recently, jobs were moving out of cities. I presume industrial ones still are. (Of course, another change is: they might not be leaving for the suburbs anymore. They might be leaving for developing countries.) Fun probably isn’t a core reason, but I buy that there is a cultural shift toward living closer in, at least in 2012. I’m sure cutting the absurdity of a long commute helps, and nowadays if you’re gonna have a long commute it may as well be on a train/bus where you can play with your mobile devices.

But in 1990? My point was, people – educated people, college grads – were already forced between choosing to go elsewhere or moving to a (then burned out) city.

Bolwerk October 19, 2012 - 3:45 am

There is also the cold reality that if you’re short on cash, it’s easier to survive in a city than anywhere else. In good cases, you probably have nearby friends you can leech off of in your neighborhood, and in bad cases you’ve got access to soup kitchens. Either way, you can probably still get to a job if you have one on foot or by transit. In a worst-case scenario, you can survive homeless.

You can likely avoid gas and car payments, which are a drag even on a middle class household. The police are much less likely to bug you. Even for those getting money from their parents well into their 20s, they can probably make that money go much further than it would have if they needed to keep a car around.

Stephen Smith October 17, 2012 - 2:00 pm

Is it a coincidence that the LIRR is the most poorly run of all the MTA divisions, and Long Island is also the place least likely to support the MTA?

Larry Littlefield October 17, 2012 - 2:21 pm

“Poorly run” isn’t the right word.

Who is protecing that mafia? My guess it is many of these same Long Island pols, who place friends, relatives, friends of relatives and relatives of friends in the non-jobs.

When they complain about waste, fraud and abuse, they aren’t talking about Long Island, believe you me. There is a grifter culture out there that is driving all the non-grifters away.

LLQBTT October 17, 2012 - 2:20 pm

Since this chap fancies himself as an attorney, perhaps he should spend 5 minutes reviewing the legal structure if the MTA. There he will discover that it is NOT a private business and therefore has no business being run like 1. Instead it is a creation of the NYS government.

Larry Littlefield October 17, 2012 - 2:22 pm

If it was a private business it would go Chapter 11. But the NYS government would never allow it.

SEAN October 17, 2012 - 2:52 pm

On another note, look at the finances of Nassau County. The republican machine has destroid the counties health to the point that the state was required to step in. We saw something similar in Orange County CA, another republican dominated countty who’s finances were blown to bits by risky investments. As an interesting footnote, both Nassau & Orange have been ranked as the wealthyest county in there respective states in terms of income, but this so called wealth happens to be consentrated in a handful of towns or cities as aposed to countywide.

How many residents of these towns in Nassau ride the LIRR? In equivalent wealthy towns in Westchester, ridership on MNR is very high & is growing while ridership on the LIRR has been waining as of late.

Larry Littlefield October 17, 2012 - 3:38 pm

People with good jobs in Manhattan have been moving to New Jersey rather than Long Island. A large chunk of my wife’s whole family moved away.

It’s a big issue. And the kind of leadership they have out there doesn’t help.

SEAN October 17, 2012 - 4:28 pm

Oh I know it is an issue. There’s another way to look at this … how many LIRR towns have walkable downtown cores? My guess is not too many except those on the Port Washington line. Compare this to NJ or westchester where village & city centers are focused around there respective stations.

Justin Samuels October 18, 2012 - 4:35 pm

Depending on where in NJ and where in Manhattan, NJ is often an easier and closer commute. Its a pretty short ride on the Path from Downtown to NJ. So that’s probably at least one factor.

But keep in mind NJ has its leadership issues as well. Look at the current governor, Chris Christie and his cancelation of the NJ Transit project…………..

Bolwerk October 19, 2012 - 3:54 am

Jersey City might represent one of the last rapid transit-accessible urban frontiers in the immediate orbit of Midtown/Downtown Manhattan. I’d throw Hoboken on the list, but at this point I suspect it’s more like Williamsburg in 2005 than Williamsburg in 1995. Either way, these places are better than Staten Island or Red Hook for access.

Of the six tracks between New Jersey and Manhattan, the three peak direction ones are all cattle cars though. That probably limits how much people from New York would want to move there.

BoerumBum October 17, 2012 - 3:01 pm

I think the MTA should name each fare hike after the politician most responsible for it. We’d have the State Senator Zeldin 2013 Fare Hike. Be careful trying to play both sides of the arguement for political gain…

Spendmore Wastemore October 17, 2012 - 8:12 pm

Long Island is what you’d get if the Mafia established a suburb.

Or perhaps “is” with no “if”.

Larry Littlefield October 17, 2012 - 8:13 pm

It’s 3 million people out there, or nearly one in six in the state. If it goes down, it’s gonna hurt.

Newsweek: Everyone must share the fiscal pain :: Second Ave. Sagas October 18, 2012 - 10:57 am

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