Hot on the heels of last week’s fare hike brouhaha, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has announced an upcoming audit of the MTA’s books.

The audit, first reported on Sunday morning by The New York Post, should be completedwithin the next few months, and DiNapoli’s office plans to release a preliminary report in September, well before the MTA Board votes on the fate of the fare hike proposal. “Mass transit is crucially important to the economic well-being of the city, and the MTA has historically not done the best job of managing its resources,” Dennis Tompkins, a spokesperson from DiNapoli’s office, said to The Post “Now it’s more important than ever that they implement every possible way to save money and increase efficiencies in the system before they raise fares on the public.”

Meanwhile, over the weekend, two different stories highlighted the need for such an audit. First, Pete Donohue of the Daily News uncovered 19,000 hours of unnecessary overtime. Some bus drivers were getting paid overtime to complete their duties when other drivers were available but not tasked to the job. Bureaucratic inefficiencies like these have long been a hallmark of the MTA, and as the transit authority streamlines their operations, the agency hopes to eliminate redundant overtime.

Then, on Saturday, shortly before the debut of the new service expansions Donohue reported on the MTA’s staffing of closed stations. Clerks had been manning the booths at 145th and 148th Sts. on the 3 line even though the stations were shut for six and a half hours each night. NYC Transit said that the stations were staffed to prevent vandalism and to “unlock turnstiles if an emergency ever required a train be rerouted to one of the depots.” This doesn’t strike me as the best use of resources.

In the long run, these two stories highlight small issues within the overall scheme of the MTA. The station staffing has cost the authority a whopping $1 million since 2000, and with budget deficits of nearly $900 million a year, one million over seven and a half years hardly seems important. But it’s the idea of it. Time and time again, city and state comptrollers have looked at the MTA’s finances, and time and time again, they’ve recommended ways to bridge the deficit gap that don’t involve fare hikes.

Nearly a year ago, when we were discussing this year’s fare hike, City Comptroller William C. Thompson issued a report highlighting how the MTA, with an assist from Albany, could avoid a fare hike. Included in that report was a study of student MetroCards that found the MTA’s footing more of the bill than it should have been paying. But nothing changes.

DiNapoli can dig and tally up figures. But it always seems that once a fare hike is on the table, nothing can stop it. The MTA will go on spending wastefully in certain ares and not enough in others. That’s just the way it is.

Categories : Fare Hikes
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Here’s an interesting bit of news before we get to the service advisories: The MTA and CNN are working on a deal that would put TV screens in the subway.

Helen Kennedy at the Daily News notes that the pilot program, as CNN will front the installation costs, will be free to the MTA, and the transit authority stands to benefit from increased advertising revenue. If that money-grabbing measure fails, we can always start taxing cigarette sales on Indian reservations to fund transit in New York. Someone save us with these stop-gap measures.

Anyway, while subway service is set for a few upgrades this weekend, we’ve still got a full slate of service advisories on tap. You can find these in convenient map form on Subway Weekender with separate maps for Saturday’s advisories and Sunday’s changes. It’s one of those weekends.

As always, these may be incomplete and are subject to change. Leave any corrections or amendments in the comments.


From 12:01 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sunday, July 27 and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, July 28, uptown 1 trains skip 103rd, 110th, 116th, and 125th Sts. due to roadbed replacement work.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 26 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 28, downtown 1 and 2 trains skip 86th and 79th Streets due to station rehab work at 96th Street.


From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27, 241st Street-bound 2 trains skip 219th, 225th, 233rd Sts. and Nereid Avenue due to switch maintenance work at Nereid Avenue.


From 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 26, free shuttle buses replace 4 trains between Woodlawn and Bedford Park Blvd. due to switch replacement work at Woodlawn.


From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 27, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park due to painting of the elevated structure.


From 12:01 a.m. throughout the day until midnight Saturday, July 26, the last stop for some Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains is 3rd Avenue due to roadbed replacement work at 143rd Street.


From 12:01 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 26, Manhattan-bound A trains run on the F line from Jay to West 4th Streets due to rail and roadbed repairs in the Cranberry Street tunnel. In addition, from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 26, C service is suspended. A trains run local both ways between 168th Street and Euclid Avenue.


Due to emergency track work, from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, July 26, Queens-bound F trains run on the V line from 47-50 Sts to Queens Plaza.


From 8:30 a.m. Friday, July 25 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 26, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to tunnel rehab work between Whitehall and Canal Sts. Customers should take the E or R instead.


From 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 26, there are no J trains between Crescent Street and Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer due to track panel installation at Cypress Hills station. Free shuttle buses replace J trains between Crescent Street and the Jamaica-Van Wyck E station.


From 5 a.m. Saturday, July 26 to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 27, Queens-bound J trains run express from Myrtle Avenue to Broadway Junction due to track realignment work at Broadway Junction.


From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 26, L trains run in two sections:

  • Between 8th Avenue and Broadway Junction and
  • Between Broadway Junction and Rockaway Parkway (trains run every 24 minutes)

This is due to switch maintenance work at Rockaway Parkway.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, July 27, downtown N trains skip 49th Street due to track and roadbed cleaning.


From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 26, Manhattan-bound N trains skip 30th Avenue, Broadway, 36th and 39th Avenues due to track maintenance work at Queensboro Plaza.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, July 26, Q trains run in two sections:

  • Between 57th and Pacific Streets and
  • Between Atlantic and Stillwell Avenues

Note: Customers must walk through the passageway between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. This is due to rail maintenance and repair between Atlantic Avenue and Prospect Park.


From 12:01 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 26, Manhattan-bound N and R trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from DeKalb Avenue to Canal Street due to tunnel rehab work between Whitehall and Canal Streets.

Categories : Service Advisories
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  • MTA: Ridership may plateau in 2009 · For years now, the MTA has seen ridership numbers skyrocket, and as the NYC Transit performance indicators show, subway ridership is again up this year. The MTA, as Matthew Sweeney reports today, however believes ridership numbers could level off in 2009. Citing higher unemployment rates and a lessening of the impact of high gas prices, Jeremy Soffin, MTA spokesman, expects to same the same number of bus and subway riders next year as this. That total? A lofty 2.35 billion. Projections, however, have a funny way of being wrong. · (8)

The New Sign It’s been a rough week for the MTA. With two fare hikes on tap over the next few years and only a balanced budget to show for it, the public is grumbling about paying more for the same sub-par service.

But grumble no more for tonight’s news is good. Starting on Sunday night and continuing on into Monday, New York City Transit is rolling out some much-needed and long-awaited service upgrades. While the upgrades were reduced in scope, they will beef up service to under-served neighborhoods and overcrowded subway lines.

We start with the big change out in Flushing, Queens. Beginning on Sunday, NYC Transit is adding 14 additional round trips on the IRT Flushing Line between Flushing-Main Street and Times Square. As part of this upgrade, express service will commence at 5:30 a.m. — 5:33, to be precise — an hour earlier than it does now. But that’s not the only change.

Some Main St.-bound trains in the morning will discharge their passengers at Willets Point-Shea Stadium — a three-platform station — instead of at 111th St. — a two-platform station. This will, according to 7 Line Manager Lou Brusati, help the line run more regularly and smoother. At Main St. in the morning, express trains will leave from Track One every five minutes and locals from Track Two at least every eight minutes.

The Manhattan IRT lines are getting a boost as well. On Tuesday night, I spied work crews hanging up the news signs, and lo and behold, the 3 will start to enjoy more service. Starting Sunday, the 3 will become a 24-hour express train. From midnight to 6:30 a.m., 3 trains will run from 148th St. to Times Square making all express stops. NYC Transit also plans to take some pressure off the 2 by increasing the frequency of the 3 from every six to eight minutes to five to seven minutes.

“The return of around-the- clock 3 train service means people will no longer be forced to wait outside in the heat and humidity or the cold and snow for a shuttle to bring them home. It also means that those who commute late at night or early in the morning will have access to the same level of service as those who work day-time hours,” Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, Jr., of Harlem, said while thanking the MTA for these upgrades.

Finally, we arrive at the upgrades to a few of the lettered train lines. The B, M and W lines — not nearly as fancy as the car with the same — will all see service increased in an effort to meet the MTA’s loading guidelines. For B train passengers — that’s me! — trains will now run until 11 p.m. at night, an increase of 90 minutes. Riders along the W will enjoy the same extended hours. The M will now run between Metropolitan Ave. and Broad St. from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and from Metropolitan Ave. and Myrtle Ave. from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Currently, trains stop running to Broad St. at 7:30 p.m.

In the end, these are somewhat minor but very essential upgrades, and the timing of this announcement couldn’t have been better for the MTA. While we really needed the full $45-million package of upgrades, these $8.9-million increases will have to suffice. Now we can’t say the MTA never does anything for its passengers.

Comments (12)
  • Coming soon: More mid-level management · While the jury is still out, NYC Transit plans to expand their line manager program. Howard Roberts, head of NYCT, and Elliot “Lee” Sander, MTA chief, say that the line manager program will help, in the words of Pete Donohue, “reorganiz[e] and streamlin[e] the underground bureaucracy.” But critics note that the two current test lines — the 7 and L — aren’t showing marked improvements in operations and the cost of the program is a concern. At a time when costs everywhere are skyrocketing, I’m not quite sold on the idea of adding 20 more managerial positions. · (5)

Let’s start with an unpopular premise: The fares for the New York City subways are far too low, and they’re kept at low levels artificially by politicians looking to curry favors with voters.

This isn’t the first time we’ve delved into the philosophy of subway fares. In November, I discussed how a five-cent fare long overdue for a raise still haunts New York City and its quest to fund transit to this day. Now, with the MTA’s calling for a fare hike in 2009 and yet another in 2011, the debate over fares is once again on the minds of New Yorkers.

Today, the base fare for entry into the subways is $2, and due to various discounts, straphangers pay on average $1.38 per ride. That is a paltry amount. Yet, the idea of raising the fare — even in light of what Streetsblog notes are irrefutable facts — is sacrosanct in this city.

On the surface, the fares are low because low fares are popular and make for seemingly sound transportation policy. If the driving forces behind mass transit are environmental — keep people out of their cars — and economic — provide low-cost solutions for people who can’t afford other means of transportation — then low fares are seemingly vital to transit success. Politicians and commuters alike both think they understand this, but when push comes to shove, politicians are loathe to provide the funds our system needs to operate and loathe still to allow for fare hikes.

Low fares, however, are clearly not the only thing keeping people underground. In London, for example, the base fare is £4.00 or nearly $8. Meanwhile, for those using the Oyster Card, the one-zone trip is £1.50 or a hair under $3. Needless to say, the Underground is enjoying record ridership year after year.

I’ll let London keep its zone system and the 19-page brochure they need to explain the various fares. But London proves that relatively high fares an age of even higher gas prices would not drive potential riders away from mass transit. Shocking, I know.

If the MTA were to raise the base fare to $4 and the cost of Unlimited Ride 30-Day MetroCards to $120 — still a meager sum — people would complain, but they would still ride the trains. Under this fare structure, the MTA might make inroads into their budget crisis. But I can see why the Three-Dollar-Fare Platform wouldn’t win me too many votes.

And thus, a key point: Politicians do not want to raise fares. They don’t want to see the fares go up on their watches because constituents will invariably take their anger out on those on the ballot. We didn’t elect Lee Sander; we can’t vote him off the island for raising fares. But we can hold Gov. Paterson responsible for his political appointees who don’t confirm to their expected roles. Sure, Sander may be looking out for the MTA’s best interest and its bottom line. But what about the rest of us who want a good subway system but don’t want to pay?

It’s the same old story with the MTA. They had a budget surplus vanish when real estate taxes tanked and operating expenses skyrocketed — basically the textbook definition of a bad economy. Meanwhile, politicians, falsely claiming populism, opted against congestion pricing, a measure that would have guaranteed the MTA at least $400 million a year annually for operating costs. Noticeably absent from the fare hike coverage is mention of how, with congestion pricing, that $900 million deficit would be cut in half.

And so in the end, it all comes down to sacrifices no one wants to make. Politicians won’t admit that the MTA is not a private company and thus needs state and city subsidies to live. New Yorkers won’t admit that subway fares are low — artificially so — and would still be a good deal even doubled. We want a top-line subway system that’s clean and efficient, but we don’t want to pay. These are irreconcilable differences, and something has to give. So let’s raise those fares until Albany is forced to lay out the big bucks.

Categories : Fare Hikes
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MTA officials gathered today for a pivotal board meeting today in which the preliminary budget went under the microscope. In short, the MTA plans to cut costs and workers while raising the fares and requesting more government money to cover a crushing $900-million deficit. Fare hikes are inevitable.

City Room succinctly sums up why the MTA is requesting not one but two fares hikes by January 2011:

In presenting its preliminary budget for the 2009 fiscal year on Wednesday morning, the authority made no attempt to conceal what it considers to be its worst fiscal situation since the economic downturn that followed 9/11. When fares last went up, in March, the authority’s plan was not to have another fare increase until January 2010, with future increases every two years thereafter. Now that entire schedule has been moved forward — by six months for the initial increase and by a year for the projected future increases….

The authority’s leaders said the fare and toll increases are necessary by the confluence of soaring energy prices and a plunge in revenue from real-estate transactions, which are a prime source of the authority’s revenue. The authority is struggling to pay the interest on billions of dollars in debts that have accumulated since the 1980s, but exploded since 2000, to pay for expensive equipment upgrades; debt service alone is expected to consume one-fifth of all authority spending by 2012.

That’s really all there is to it. The MTA is saddled with crushing debt brought about by the need, 25 years ago, to restore the system to a state of good repair and by a marked decrease over that time of contributions on a city and state level. As was the case earlier this year and late last year, these fare increases will happen unless the city and state find a hundreds of millions of dollars to send to the MTA.

True, the MTA could cut capital projects. True, they could drastically reduce service. But the capital budget is separate from this operations deficit, and a lot of the federal money the MTA is using to fund its capital program is earmarked specifically for those projects. Those funds can’t be shifted to cover debt payments. And we don’t even want to touch the issue of service reductions.

The MTA, as I’ve sad over and over again, sits on a precipice right now. It could fall back into a state of bad repair so prevalent in the 1970s, and the New York economy would suffer because of it. It could — with the help of a lot of money — grow and emerge from this slump. Later tonight, I’ll have some thoughts on the state of the MTA’s fares, but for now, we are left facing something of a dead end. An unwilling legislature won’t come up with the funds for the MTA. So the transit authority is left with one recourse: fare hikes. And that’s the state of things.

Categories : Fare Hikes
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As the MTA Board debates the financial future of the transit agency and the possibility of an upcoming fare hike — the second in two years — New York politicians and newspapers are sounding off on this hot-button issue. Let’s take a look at what everyone is saying.

We start with Mayor Bloomberg. In a press conference yesterday, Bloomberg slammed the MTA for not showing budgetary flexibility. An agency with a $10 billion, he says, should be able to trim five percent of that without foisting a fare hike on its customers. I wonder if Bloomberg would be up for running the MTA when his mayoral term ends in few months. He has the business acumen to turn this organization around. The video below showcases Bloomberg’s comments:

In Newsday, we see Gov. David Paterson threatening to do “everything [he] can to prevent” a second MTA fare hike in two years. “This cannot become the new way that the MTA solves problems: Every time there’s an issue, pass along the increase to the … riders,” he said. “Let’s explore other options rather than a fare hike.”

Within the same piece, state officials are threatening audits of the MTA’s books and are exhibiting exceptional grandstanding talents. “We are not at the point now where anyone should be talking about a fare increase,” Richard Brodsky, the Assembly representative who told the MTA he would deliver more money for the financially strapped transit agency, said. To him, I say, again, show them the money.

The Times largely echoes Newsday but with a focus on the city officials. Both Mayor Bloomberg and City Council — and mayoral hopeful — Christine Quinn both voiced their opposition to the fare hike. While Bloomberg flat-out denied the MTA anymore city funds, Quinn was a bit more judicious. “Before the M.T.A. comes asking for more from the city, the state or the public, they need to do a little more housekeeping, which means cutting their overhead, cutting their management budget and cutting their administrative budget,” she said.

The quote of the day, though, comes from none other than the Congestion Pricing Grim Reaper himself Sheldon Silver: “New Yorkers are facing higher prices for food, electricity and many other necessities, and transit fares just went up a few months ago. We simply cannot afford another increase.” Those increases, Shelly, are exactly why the MTA is facing a budget crisis. But can we really expect New York officials to put two and two together and come up with four?

Also in The Times, we find the editorial board echoing my comments: They want the city and state to deliver funds for the MTA. Writes The Times:

Legislators, particularly those in Albany, bear an even greater responsibility to help after they rejected a congestion-pricing plan that would have brought the M.T.A. $500 million in additional funds annually. They spurned it anyway, leaving the M.T.A. to rattle a cup and riders to reach ever deeper into their pockets.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who championed congestion pricing, needs to move on and help transit in other ways. A sound businessman like the mayor knows that this city needs effective transit to do business, draw tourists and keep residents. Mass transit also reduces car traffic and tailpipe emissions.

Both New York 1 and the Daily News take a look at the hike proposal from the populist perspective. The News notes that straphangers already shoulder too much of the revenue burden for the MTA. NY1 reports that commuters are, unsurprisingly, not too happy with the prospects of another fare hike.

Categories : Fare Hikes
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