MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander is facing increased pressure from politicians and advocacy groups to postpone the planned fare hike until the middle of April at the earliest. But as hard as these politicians and transit advocates push, Sander pushes back harder. Yesterday, he was at it again, defending the need for a fare hike despite news the contrary.
We start with The Daily News. Earlier this week, Pete Donohue reported that unexpected windfalls could provide the MTA with enough money to stave off the fare hike at least temporarily. Basing his argument on the supposed $100 million that the MTA would lose if they delayed the fare hike until April, Donohue notes that the extra $60 million in real estate taxes and a $49 million toll surplus would give the MTA the extra money they need to wait. He also drops in the fact that $50 million was supposed to use on paint jobs could be added to this pot as well.
Enter Sander. Yesterday, while speaking after the MTA board meeting, Sander stressed the economic need to act on the fare hike sooner rather than later. NY1’s Bobby Cuza has more:
The head of the MTA says that even with the extra $100 million to $200 million that could be brought in with congestion pricing, the agency just doesn’t have enough in the bank to keep the system up and running without a fare hike…
The MTA is counting on:
- $400 million in state aid next year, some of it requiring legislative action;
- $600 million in new government aid starting in 2010;
- Legislative approval of congestion pricing, which would raise money for MTA capital projects.
Sander says the only way a fare hike could be avoided would be for the city and state to come up with another $300 million a year on top of all that.
While Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, one of the leading voices calling for a postponement of the fare hike, has repeated told Sander to simply ask the state for more money, Brodsky has yet to say he could definitely deliver the needed funds on top of the $1.5 billion the MTA will already get. Sander, not willing to risk a lot of the work and improvements the subway system has enjoyed over the last few years, is loathe rely on what he called a “game of roulette” in Albany.
“The reality is the MTA is in need of great financial sums from Albany over the next two calendar years,” Sander said. “For us to bank on [state money] when the overall funding need is fares and tolls plus this aid, it puts at risk the system we have worked so hard to build, to rebuild.”
To me, the outcome of this saga really should hinge on Pete Donohue’s report. If Donohue’s numbers are accurate — and I have no reason to doubt them — the MTA should take this surplus money and use it to stave off the fare hike for a few months. It certainly won’t be the end of the fare hike. But by April, the Authority will be able to actually ask Albany for the money, and the rest of us will have time see if Brodsky can deliver on his promises of more funds. Sander, along with incoming MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger, owe the paying public at least that much.
Photo courtesy of The New York Observer.