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.