While the MTA, like many other institutions, is struggling to make ends meet these days, savvy train buffs and subway enthusiasts alike can turn to that tried and true method of boosting consumer confidence: Christmas shopping. The Transit Museum, purveyors of all things MTA, have quite the selection available at their store this holiday season. Let’s see what we can find.

To the right are some snazzy ornaments. While the Museum shop is low on Hanukkah gifts, they’ve got something for the Christmas celebrants around the city. The ornaments are available for all lines except the L, S, V and soon-to-be-extinct W. You can also decorate your tree in MetroCards, tokens or my personal favorite, Santa Claus riding the subway.

For those of us who don’t have a tree to decorate, there are many more practical gifts on sale. Are you always getting lost on the subway? Never sure what line to take? Now, you can have easy access to a subway map. The next time someone asks you for directions, just drop your pants and point them on their way with these handy subway map boxers. Nothing points to lovin’ quite like these silk undergarments.

If you find yourself metaphorically lost in the kitchen, a subway map pot holder may be the right accessory for you. This Manhattan-centric item also comes in oven mitt and apron form. The store also carries some subway hot sauce, but that’s not a connections I’d like to think too much about.

Perhaps you’re more of a snazzy dresser than a Top Chef hopeful. To that end, the $70 cufflinks made form recycled subway maps complete the best of outfits. The token charm bracelet hearkens back to a different era when swipes were unheard of. The station mosaic reproductions lend an air of authenticity and Heins & LaFarge or Squire Vickers grandeur to even the smallest of New York studios.

The Transit Museum has something for the heavy rollers too. Designed by renowned artist Boris Bally, the subway map chair is available for the low, low price of $2200 or just 1100 swipes of your pay-per-ride MetroCard. The special one-of-a-kind Times Square-themed chair checks in at the same price. Looking for something equally as, um, unique but not as pricey? Try an air gauge for just $62.50.

Finally, we end with the practical gifts. Want to know how long you’ve been standing there at Lorimer St. waiting for the G train? Well, then, get your own G train watch, guaranteed to be on time for often than the train itself. Take a few shots out of the MetroCard Shooters. With fares going up, we need all the relief we can get. And here’s to that rainy day with a subway map umbrella. For passengers watching yet another packed 7 train go by, at least you can stay dry while being reminded of the sad fact that you have no other choice of train line.

But in all seriousness, the Transit Museum Store has you covered this holiday season for all your subway-related gifts. While our fares might be going up, the Transit Museum and its stores while away the hours, reminding us of days when the subways cost 5¢ and MetroCards were but a futuristic device far off in the future. It’s a fun place to visit, and you never know what you might find lurking in the gift shop.

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Everybody wants to ride to the MTA’s rescue. Politicians from all walks of New York life are trying to propose ways through which the MTA could cover some — or all — of its $1.4 billion deficit without resorting to fare hikes and service cuts. Let’s take a look.

First up is the New York City comptroller. William Thompson just wants to add high fees to every car registration in the Big Apple and its surrounding counties to cover the deficit. He also wants to implement a commuter tax. Colin Moynhian had the story:

The New York City comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., said on Sunday that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s gaping budget deficits could be diminished by increasing automobile registration fees in 12 counties served by the authority’s trains and buses.

At a press conference outside Grand Central Terminal, Mr. Thompson said that drivers now pay $30 every two years to register a vehicle in New York City, though they also pay additional state fees. He proposed adding an annual fee of $100 for drivers in the city and nearby counties who register vehicles weighing up to 2,300 pounds, with vehicles above that weight also being assessed an additional 9 cents per pound.

The fees, which Mr. Thompson said would go directly to the authority, could total about $1 billion per year, with some $350 million from New York City residents. The authority faces a $1.2 billion deficit next year, and it unveiled a budget on Thursday that called for a 23 percent increase in tolls and fares along with cutbacks in service and layoffs. Mr. Thompson, a Democratic candidate for mayor, said he feared that the proposed fare increases would make mass transit unaffordable for some riders.

Thompson also called for a revival of the commuter tax, last seen around these parts in 1999. He believes these combined fees could raise nearly $2 billion for mass transit while serving to cut down on traffic as well.

Of course, the problem is that this plan, proposed by a potential mayoral candidate, is completely politically infeasible. If congestion pricing — a fee targeted at those that actively enter and exit the Manhattan Central Business District — couldn’t pass, a passive fee levied on everyone probably wouldn’t stand much of a chance.

This is a sad reality really because this would be a great plan. Owners of cars would reconsider their lavish purchases while businesses wouldn’t be taxed nearly as heavily as they would have been under the congestion pricing plan. Meanwhile, those businesses would easily be able to pass on the costs to their consumers.

I’m sure Richard Ravitch will include this idea in his proposal. After all, Thompson brought it up in his testimony to the commission, but whether it could become a reality is another question entirely.

* * *

In other news, Council members Eric Gioia and David Yassky have again urged the MTA to better manage its real estate holdings. The problem here is that this is a one-time solution. If the MTA sells their buildings or stops leasing what is now mostly vacant space in Brooklyn, they get an infusion of cash for now but not a steady income stream going forward. We need real long-term solutions and not a short-term fix.

* * *
Update 4:23 p.m.: The Comptroller has released the details of his plan. You can read the whole thing right here as a PDF.

Categories : MTA Economics
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In jail with the MTA Board

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During one of the various discussion about the service cuts sure to come out of the MTA’s financial crisis, Dale Hemmerdinger issued what has become my favorite quote of the week. “We are charged,” he said, “by law to propose a balanced budget by the end of the year. We only have two ways we can handle that: We can either cut service or we can raise fares. That’s all we can do. If we don’t balance the budget by the end of the year, we could all go to jail.”

Can you imagine the scene when U.S. Marshalls or NYPD officers show up to cart Hemmerdinger and his co-conspirators off to jail? I wonder if Norman Seabrook would turn into a devout Jew while stewing in his cell in Rikers.

While Hemmerdinger was using a little bit of rhetoric to make a point, it was certain a silly-sounding statement to make. To that end, William Neuman poked a bit of fun at Hemmerdinger in a column this weekend. He wrote:

So, is it possible? Could the authority’s board be tossed in the hoosegow if the budget it passes shows a negative balance in its bottom line?

Or what about another possibility, given Mr. Hemmerdinger’s evident heartache over the proposed budget’s dire measures: What if the board, all 23 members, in an act of civil disobedience, refused to pass a budget until state lawmakers rescued the transit system with more money?

Legal experts said they did not believe the board would be sent to jail for a budget that showed a negative balance. At most, the authority might become the target of a lawsuit, they said. In theory, if a judge then ordered the authority to balance its budget and the board repeatedly refused, its members might be held in contempt of court, which could ultimately lead to a bread-and-water diet behind bars. But, as they may say, that train has not left the station yet.

Gene Russianoff, the ubiquitous head of the Straphangers Campaign, joined in the mockery. “I take that requirement as a requirement that’s not backed up by a year in the slammer,” he said to The Times “If they really had criminal liability, they might be eligible for a jury trial. I’d worry about the jury coming in with a verdict of capital punishment. They’re not too popular.”

Hemmerdinger later clarified his thinking, as Neuman writes:

“I just assumed that if we didn’t do the law we would go to jail,” he said. “I’m not a lawyer. I said something without thinking of all the implications.” He said that upon reflection it was clear to him that the laws involved were civil and not criminal, and so were not likely to lead to Rikers Island.

But he added: “Some of the riders I’m sure would like to send me there, after the comments I’ve heard on the radio this morning.”

Of course, the MTA Board won’t go to jail, and New Yorkers will probably end up paying more for the agency’s financial troubles than the wealthy moguls who sit on the board. But in our dreams, we can imagine MTA officials in jail, not for failing to pass the budget, but for holding the public responsible for the fiscal improprieties of both our state government and the MTA’s overseers.

Categories : MTA Economics
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Before I launch into the weekend service advisories, check out the Second Annual MetroCard Challenge. There’s an interactive component this year if anyone is interested.

I think Clyde Haberman said it best in talking about this week’s MTA financial news: “So now we know what doomsday looks like for New York. It looks an awful lot like an ordinary weekend.”


Of course, Haberman is talking about the current level of service. The service cuts would make regular weekday travel approximate current weekend travel conditions. But under the service cuts, getting around the city on the weekend would be a potentially painstakingly slow process. Hopefully, someone — Richard Ravitch, Sheldon Silver, Gov. David Paterson, anyone — steps in to save the MTA, and we can look back on this Doomsday scenario as something that never came to pass.

Meanwhile, weekend work continues apace. This weekend is a fairly hectic one as I believe work will slow down a bit next weekend through the end of December as tourist season ramps up. Remember too that these come with the usual caveats: Service advisories are subject to change. Check the signs in your station and listen for on-board announcements.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, there are no 1 trains between 34th Street and South Ferry due to work on the new South Ferry terminal. Customers should take the 2 between 34th Street and Chambers Street. There is a free shuttle bus running between Chambers Street and South Ferry.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, 1 trains skip 28th, 23rd, and 18th Streets due to work on the new South Ferry terminal.

From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23, Bronx-bound 1 trains skip 225th, 231st, and 238th Streets due to track maintenance and repairs at 225th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, downtown 2 trains run local from 96th to Chambers Streets due to work on the new South Ferry terminal. Uptown 2 trains run local from Chambers to 72nd Streets, then express to 96th Street.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, there are no 2 trains between 96th and 241st Streets due to switch work at 135th Street, new roadbed installation between 135th Street and149th Street, and tunnel security work. Free shuttle buses replace 2 trains between 96th Street and 149th Street-Grand Concourse. 5 trains replace the 2 between 149th Street-Grand Concourse and 241st Street.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, there are no 3 trains running due to switch work at 135th Street, new roadbed installation between 135th Street and149th Street, and tunnel security work. The 2, 4 and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, there are no 5 trains between Brooklyn Bridge and Bowling Green due to work on the new South Ferry terminal. Customers should take the 4 instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, 5 trains run in two sections due to switch work at 135th Street, new roadbed installation between 135th Street and149th Street, and tunnel security work:

  • Between Dyre Avenue and East 180th Street and
  • Between East 180th Street and Brooklyn Bridge

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, November 22, and Sunday, November 23, uptown A trains run express from 59th to 125th Streets due to track cleaning.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, free shuttle buses and shuttle train service replace the A between Howard Beach-JFK Airport and the Rockaways due to work on the South Channel Bridge.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November, 24, there are no C trains running. Customers should take the A instead. A trains run local between 168th Street and Euclid Avenue. Uptown trains run express from 59th to 125th Streets. These changes are due to tunnel security work.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 10 p.m. Sunday, November 23, Manhattan-bound D trains run on the N from Stillwell Avenue to 36th Street due to track panel installation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, Manhattan-bound F trains run on the A line from Jay Street to West 4th Street due to tunnel security work.

From 8:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Long Island City-Court Square due to N and R work (see below). Customers should take the E or R instead.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23, Queens-bound J trains skip Hewes Street, Lorimer Street and Flushing Avenue due to third rail repairs.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5 a.m. Saturday, November 22 and from 11:30 p.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Sunday, November 23, and from 11:30 p.m. Sunday, November 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, there are no L trains between 8th Avenue and Union Square due to switch replacement work at 8th Avenue. Customers should use the M14 bus instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, there are no N trains between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square due to track replacement in the area of 5th Avenue/59th Street, switch work at Queensboro Plaza and tunnel security work.

  • For Lexington Avenue and 5th Avenue, take the 7 to Grand Central and transfer to the uptown 456 to 59th Street
  • For 49th Street and 57th Street, take the 7 to Times Square and transfer to the uptown Q

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, N trains skip Prince, 8th, 23rd, and 28th Streets. (Same work as above.) Customers should take the Q instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, N trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge between DeKalb Avenue and Canal Street. (Same work as above.)

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, Manhattan-bound N trains skip 30th Avenue, Broadway, 36th Avenue, and 39th Avenue due to switch work at 39th Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, Q trains replace the R making all local stops between 57th Street-7th Avenue and DeKalb Avenue. (N and R project.)

From 12:01 a.m. Sunday, November 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, R trains run on the V line from Queens Plaza to Broadway-Lafayette Street, then via the Manhattan Bridge to DeKalb Avenue. (N and R project.)

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 24, Manhattan-bound Q trains skip Neck Road and Avenue U due to station rehab work.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Last November, as the MTA started talking about a fare hike, I decided to see just how much I, a moderately heavy user of the subways, pay per ride. Thus was born the MetroCard Challenge.

For a month, I charted my swipes, and in the end, I found that I got a pretty good deal on the subway. I used my $76 30-day Unlimited Ride Card 74 times in one month for an average cost-per-ride of $1.03. That’s a steal.

Five days ago on Monday, with the MTA’s financial woes coming to the forefront, I bought an $81 30-day Unlimited Ride Card, and I plan to host the challenge again. So far in a little less than five days of usage, I’ve used the card 13 times for a cost-per-ride of $6.23. It’s dropping quickly.

To set the stage a little bit, I’m a New Yorker and a student. My transportation to Thanksgiving dinner involves talking the 2 or 3 from Grand Army Plaza, switching to the 4 at Nevins and disembarking on the Upper East Side. During the week, I’m a commuter student. So much like the 9-to-5 crowd, I take the subway to and from work — or in my case, school. With finals coming up, my social life will be a bit curtailed. Perhaps, this month is ideal as I’ll be approximating someone who works.

So let’s see how things end up. I know I’ll be paying well less than the best fare, and I’ll be tracking my expenditures in the side bar. Just how low my fare will be remains to be seen.

Update: I’m going to make this interactive this year. I’ve shared a spreadsheet on Google Docs for the world to use (until it gets vandalized). Add your own line and keep track of your MetroCard use throughout a month. Just remember to update it regularly or semi-regularly to watch your own cost-per-ride drop. For now, the cost-per-ride column will automatically update when you fill out the other fields.

Categories : MetroCard
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In a little bit of hyperbole on Thursday, Dale Hemmerdinger, the MTA Chair, opined on the monumental task facing the MTA Board. Somehow, someway, the board has to find a way to balance a budget with a $1.4 billion deficit.

“We are charged,” he said, “by law to propose a balanced budget by the end of the year. We only have two ways we can handle that: We can either cut service or we can raise fares. That’s all we can do. If we don’t balance the budget by the end of the year, we could all go to jail.”

While Hemmerdinger and his MTA co-conspirators probably won’t get carted off to Rikers if they don’t offer up a balanced budget next month, they do have the unenviable task of selling service cuts and fare hikes to a very skeptical public. So just how are they going to save the money?

In my post on the budget presentation, I listed the MTA’s proposed cuts. Let’s take a second look at the subway cuts.

NYC Transit: Savings of $167 Million in 08/09, $280 million annually 2010-12

The cuts to New York City Transit represent the highest dollar total of all the cuts and also seem to impact the greatest number of people. Off the bat, the MTA is planning a 7.5 percent reduction in staff. Furthmore, the agency will condense a few lines and eliminate others. They plan to shorten G service, operate N trains via Manhattan Bridge late nights, eliminate the W and extend the Q to Astoria, operate M trains only to Broad St. during rush hours, eliminate all Z trains and add J local service. For growing neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that depend on these trains, that’s a big blow.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, the MTA will be reducing non-rush hour service along the lettered lines from around 15 trains every two hours (one per eight minutes) to 12 trains every two hours (one per ten minutes). Late-night service will arrive every 30 minutes instead of every 20 minutes, and bus service will be cut heavily. Ouch.

The other agencies will see extreme cuts as well. Metro-North will suffer through $35 million worth of personnel and service cuts; Long Island Rail Road will drastically cut back on people and trains to the tune of $36 million in 2009 and $53 million annually 2010-12. Even the money-making Bridges and Tunnels division will scale back by about $17 million a year.

In the end, these savings are substantial for the MTA, but the cost to New Yorkers is immeasurable. Late-night subway service will become a burden. Missing that one train could result in a 30-minute wait. Non-rush hour trains will be slower and more crowded. People will be unhappy about paying more for less service.

For the most part, New York politicians are saying the right things. “Neither the city nor the state has any money. There’s not enough money to go around, and we’re all going to have to work together,” Mayor Bloomberg said. Considering that Bloomberg himself is wealthy enough to cover the MTA’s gap, that’s hardly sympathy from the mayor.

Sheldon Silver, the scourge of congestion pricing, has kind words for Richard Ravitch. “Clearly, [Ravitch] will be talking about ways to raise revenue,” Silver said to The Times. “I’m not afraid of reasonable, responsible tax policy, plain and simple. I think that both the residents and the businesses of the city of New York, understanding the significance of mass transit in the city, would be understanding of some revenue raises to continue affordable mass transit.”

Whether Silver is politically willing to do the right — but perhaps unpopular — thing for the MTA is another question entirely.

So here we are in November with but four months to spare. The MTA Board must adopt a balanced budget by the end of December, and MTA CEO and Executive Director has given the state until March to come up with money. If funds are not forthcoming, the agency will start cutting service with fare hikes to follow by June. Stay tuned; with the Ravitch report due in two weeks, the fun is just getting started.

Categories : MTA Economics
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It’s official; baring a government bailout, in 2009, the MTA is going to implement extreme service cuts and raise fares by 23 percent in order to cover a deficit now estimated at $1.4 billion. Additionally, to keep pace with projections, the authority is planning for a 2011 fare hike of at least another five percent.

William Neuman and Sewell Chan were at the MTA Board Meeting this morning and covered the news for The Times’ CityRoom blog. They reported:

The deficit-closing plan, outlined by [MTA CEO and Executive Director] Lee Sander at a meeting of the authority’s board in Midtown, would involve eliminating 2,700 jobs, saving $261 million next year, and “significant cuts that will affect every part of our operation and cannot be sugar-coated.”

For New York City Transit, the biggest component of the authority, the deficit-closing plan would eliminate the W and Z subway lines; eliminate service on the M line to Bay Parkway in Brooklyn; shorten the route of the G line, which will permanently stop at Court Square in Long Island City, Queens, instead of 71st and Continental Avenues in Forest Hills, Queens; lower the frequency of most letter-line trains to every 10 minutes from every eight minutes on weekends; lower the frequency of all trains to every 30 minutes from every 20 minutes from 2 to 5 a.m.; eliminate overnight bus service on 25 routes; and eliminate the X27 and X28 express-bus lines.

Mr. Sander said the route alterations “will result in extra transfers, longer travel times, longer wait times and longer walking time.” Trains would be more crowded. Subway cars would be cleaned less frequently. Station booths would be closed. Bus service would be cut back on weekends and at nights. The express-bus fare would rise to $7.50 from $5. The cost of the Access-a-Ride paratransit service for disabled riders would rise.

The Long Island Rail Road would cut 173 positions, cancel and combine some train lines, reduce service on weekends and off-peak hours and cut train crews. The Metro-North Railroad would cut 88 positions, shorten trains, increase the loading guidelines, slow down the restoration of Grand Central Terminal and cut cleaning and maintenance at the terminal. Fares would rise by 43 percent on the Long Island Bus.

In delivering the bad news, Sander advocated for the agency as well. “No one on this board — and indeed no one should in this room — should leave here today thinking that this mix of service cuts and increase in fares and tolls are actions that I am eager — or that the staff is eager — to implement,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Even in a period of austerity, we cannot afford to lose sight of this simple fact: Continuing investment in the M.T.A.’s capital and operating needs should and must remain one of the highest priorities of our elected officials in New York City and Albany.”

Meanwhile, this plan as presented outlines the shocking ways in which our government just isn’t contributing to transit. According to MTA documents, fare revenue would cover over 80 percent of operating costs for New York City Transit’s subway system. This level of rider contribution is nearly unprecedented among the world’s public or semi-public subway systems.

Sander also stressed the ways in which the MTA must invest in its future as well. While the capital program is funded through a separate budget, the MTA cannot risk halting expansion and modernization plans. “If we don’t have a capital program, we’re definitely on the road back to where we were in the 1970s,” the MTA head warned.

After the jump, the extensive press release from the MTA, detailing the budget cuts. Things are going to get nasty and ugly before they get better.

Read More→

Categories : MTA Economics
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The MTA has a problem. And no, I’m not talking about the duel threats of steep fare hikes and rampant service cuts. Instead, I’m talking about the capital campaign. The cash-strapped MTA needs $30 billion for its next five-year capital plan. Where that money is going to come from is, right now, anyone’s guess.

We know about the MTA’s current operating budget issue. The MTA has to find a way to balance a budget currently $1.2 billion in debt, and when they unveil their plans later today, the riders are going to suffer. But long term, the MTA has to remain in good shape.

For the past twenty years, the powers-that-be have pushed an aggressive capital expansion and modernization plan. Every five years, the MTA submits a new plan for approval and funds a significant part of that through borrowed funds and government contributions. But in a bad economy, the money has practically dried up, and as William Neuman explores in The Times today, the very future of the MTA is at risk if capital sources dry up.

“The authority,” he writes, “is uncertain how it will pay for the next five-year capital spending plan that could cost as much as $30 billion.”

The fare increases and cutbacks are meant to keep the system running next year. The capital plan is meant to keep it running for years beyond that through the purchase of new equipment, maintenance of tracks and renovation of stations…

The current capital plan expires at the end of next year, and the authority must submit a new five-year plan to the state for approval even as it seeks additional money to plug its operating deficit. Officials have estimated that the capital plan could cost $25 billion to $30 billion, much of which would be financed through bonds that the authority would repay over many years.

Both budgets are important, but Mr. Brodsky and others worry that the long-term needs will be lost in the tumult of settling the more immediate need. “It would be a terrible mistake to take whatever resources may be available and use them all on the operating side,” Mr. Brodsky said.

In the article, Richard Brodsky, Democratic assemblyman from Westchester, sounds like the MTA’s biggest booster. “The need for investment in the system is gargantuan,” he says. “Twenty-five years from now what we do on the capital plan will resonate much more loudly than what the debate is going to be about fare increases.”

He’s not lying, and in fact, the MTA chair backs him up. “Not enough people recognize that the system is vulnerable, and if you don’t keep spending this money it will go back to the way it was in the ’70s before you can blink an eye,” Dale Hemmerdinger said to Neuman. “All the focus and all the talk so far has been on the operating budget, and the capital budget runs out next year and we need to know the money is going to continue to flow.”

But Brodsky has also been one of the biggest thorns in the MTA’s side. From his position as head of the MTA’s oversight committee, he opposed congestion pricing, a progressive scheme to deliver $400 million annually earmarked for the MTA’s operations budget. He urged the MTA to ask the assembly for more money only to see the governing body deny the authority needed funds.

It’s very true that the MTA needs to find a way to ensure its capital campaigns continue. We can’t afford to see the subways slip back into the state of disrepair so rampant in the 1970s. That is indeed more important that arguments over short-term service cuts and fare hikes. But we also need politicians willing to put their necks out there to fund transit. Something has to give; what will it be?

Categories : MTA Economics
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  • Cutting people, instead of service, to save $1 billion · New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has long called on the MTA to pursue internal belt-tightening to save money. Today, with extreme fare hikes and myriad service cuts on the table, the comptroller talked with the New York Post about how the agency could save $1 billion by cutting internal bloat. According to DiNapoli, thousands of the MTA’s 70,000 employees are either redundant or nonessential, but the agency has acted slowly in trimming the bureaucratic fat. “We’d like them to show more urgency. They should have a more aggressive timetable to implement what they have to do,” he said. Perhaps, as we urge lawmakers to send more money transit’s way, we should urge the MTA to do some serious internal trimming as well. · (8)

While the Daily News may have scooped the rest of the New York papers with the news on the MTA’s planned extensive service cuts, The Times one-upped the tabloid today. The Gray Lady’s got the fare information, and it ain’t pretty

William Neuman details the planned fare hikes that will compliment the service reductions. While Neuman doesn’t mention the reported $3 base fare, he tosses around a 23 percent fare hike across the board. Yikes.

Anyway, the details:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will seek to increase fare and toll revenues by 23 percent next year to plug a yawning budget gap, according to a person briefed on the plan…The result is straightforward and grim: Many riders will have to pay more to wait longer for trains and buses that are more crowded.

The fare and toll increase is intended to raise about $600 million next year, about half of the $1.2 billion deficit projected for next year. The increase would go into effect in June or July.

The authority will outline the budget proposals at a meeting of its board on Thursday, but officials said they had not yet worked out details of how the changes would affect different types of MetroCard fares on subways and buses, as well as fares on the commuter railroads.

It appears likely, however, that the base subway and bus fare would increase to at least $2.50, from $2, and that a monthly unlimited-ride MetroCard could rise to about $100.

I’ll be unveiling a second iteration of last year’s MetroCard Challenge later today to see how this move will impact me (and hopefully you, the user of a 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard). Needless to say, while the average price per ride will remain a good deal, no one will be happy about having to fork over $100 for a MetroCard while suffering through potential decreases in service.

For now, we can’t do much to assess this news. The MTA officials haven’t yet hammered out the details of a fare hike. But it is likely that users of the heavily-discounted Unlimited Ride cards will face steep increases as will bridge-and-tunnel users and pay-per-ride MetroCard swipes.

What this latest development ensures is that it will get ugly before it gets better. Already, the TV news stations are cornering disgruntled passengers who seem too willing to blame the MTA instead of elected officials who continue to withhold funding for the MTA. It’s time to reframe that debate and hold the officials who control the purse strings responsible for this mess.

Furthermore, the MTA seems to project the fare hikes to cover just half of the projected 2009 deficit. The other half will have to come from somewhere. Can service cuts and personnel decisions cover the rest? We’ll find out on Thursday.

Categories : Fare Hikes
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