We join today’s episode of “As the MTA Turns” now in progress.
As the State Democrats bicker about taxes and tolls, party leaders in the both the Assembly and Senate are trying to reach across the aisle to garner GOP support. State Republican leaders, however, are loathe to embrace any MTA funding package and believe that transit proponents are overstating the severity of the financial crisis.
Newsday’s James T. Madore has more:
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) warned jobs would be lost at the upstate factories making buses and commuter trains for the authority while Long Island commuters faced exorbitant fare hikes. The regions mentioned are represented by Republicans, who hold 30 of the 62 seats in the Senate.
Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), the majority leader, was more conciliatory, saying he appreciated Republicans’ insistence that a rescue of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority be paired with money for roads and bridges on the Island and upstate. He said a meeting Monday with Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) had encouraged him.
Smith needs GOP help because of a rebellion in Democratic ranks over funding the MTA with bridge tolls on the now-free East River and Harlem River bridges, and a payroll tax on employers in the 12 counties served by the authority. Democrats’ narrow majority means the objections of one senator can scuttle a deal.
While these politicians now seem to be fighting as hard they can for the MTA, something that I didn’t mention this morning in the PCAC report leapt out at me. It’s rather relevant considering the politicking going on in Albany these days.
Embedded in the section assessing the overall effectiveness of the MTA was this paragraph on lobbying efforts:
While there have been more visible efforts by the MTA in recent months to press the New York State legislature and the U.S. Congress for increased predictable financial support, these initiatives must be enhanced and sustained. As the largest transit system in the U.S., with a full agenda of needed improvements and rapidly growing ridership, the MTA must aggressively promote its critical role in the economic vitality of the New York City region. As part of that effort, MTA must do better in quantifying the number of jobs that will be created by its capital and state-of-good-repair programs. When its dire financial situation was accelerating in the fall of 2008, the MTA was slow to produce these figures and slow to publicize them. Information about the impact of service cuts on the constituencies of NYS legislators was also delayed. Finally, the Authority did not harness the energy of rider advocates who could serve as a powerful voice on MTA’s behalf.
That assessment is right on the mark. For too long, the opponents of a sensible funding plan — requiring bridge tolls and other fees on businesses and services that benefit from a fully functional transit agency — have been winning the PR war. The MTA, while vocal, hasn’t been an organizing factor, and rider advocacy organizations haven’t enjoyed the coherence or the support they should be showing.
With Passover nearly upon us and Easter on the horizon, straphangers may have to wait until next week for another update from Albany. As each day that passes, we grow one day closer to service cuts and fare hikes. That’s bad news for everyone.