Home MTA Economics A $1.2 billion deficit, but what gets cut?

A $1.2 billion deficit, but what gets cut?

by Benjamin Kabak

It’s hard to wrap your mind around $1.2 billion. What exactly does it mean to face a $1.2 billion deficit?

In New York terms, it would take A-Rod 44 years at his current salary of $27 million a season to earn $1.2 billion. For Mayor Bloomberg, $1.2 billion is approximately six percent of his pre-stock market crash net worth.

But for the rest of us — the subway- and bus-riding public — that $1.2 billion figure is a harbinger of bad things to come. While Richard Ravitch may have a few politically untenable aces up his sleeve, the reality is that the MTA is going to have to cut, baby, cut to chip away at this massive deficit.

Pete Donohue has the news as it will impact riders:

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials wouldn’t release details of a still-developing doomsday budget plan, but sources said bus riders – particularly on express routes – would likely see the biggest cuts.

Subway riders would see fewer trains, especially on lines with parallel service, such as the Broadway line in Manhattan, where N, R and W trains run, sources said.

Layoffs also are on the table, officials said.

William Neuman has the bad news for fare-watchers:

The preliminary budget also called for an 8 percent increase in fare and toll revenues, starting in July, which would generate an additional $200 million.

Each 1 percent increase in fare and toll revenues would generate slightly more than $4 million in income each month.

Of course, the problem with that fare increase and the additional $200 million is that those are simply replacement funds. The MTA doesn’t think that city and state, also facing significant budget crises, will come through with a promised $200 million contribution. So the MTA will still be left with rising costs and debt payments while the fare hike will simply offset money they should have gotten in the first place.

Meanwhile, for the first time, MTA officials, off the record, are talking about cutting service and increasing the fare at the same time; there is no plan in place to fund the next $30 billion capital campaign; and other services — maintenance workers, station cleaners — may face the axe as well. This is a sorry state of affairs for a vital transit agency.

One day, when it’s too late, our legislatures will wake up and realize that we as a city are doomed to repeat the recent past when the subways weren’t properly funded. But by the time we reach a point analogous to the 1960s and 1970s, it will be far too late. This week’s news should serve as a warning shot. For some reason, I don’t think it will.

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rhywun November 11, 2008 - 8:39 am

This is the inevitable “doomsday scenario” that always gets drawn up when times are tough. To really bring it home, they could always “run out of money” and stop service for a day. They actually pulled this stunt when I lived in Buffalo about 12 years ago. Except this time around, the city and state are just as bad off as the agency and might not come to the rescue. One thing is for sure: service cuts are not acceptable.

Phil November 11, 2008 - 8:52 am

To bad the MTA cant get a piece of the huge bail out.

Remembering That Kiss in 1945 - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com November 11, 2008 - 12:14 pm

[…] Now that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced a $1.2 billion budget cut, what will stay and what will go? [2nd Ave. […]

Roosevelt Island 360 (Eric) November 11, 2008 - 1:19 pm

Perhaps AIG personnel can work the fare booths to help do their share.

Skip Skipson November 11, 2008 - 1:23 pm

Perhaps the MTA can collect all of the cans thrown onto the train tracks and raise revenue that way.

rhywun November 11, 2008 - 5:30 pm

I love how they single out the N, R, and W–the lines that trade places with each other at the bottom of the “worst service” list every year put out by Straphangers.


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