Now that we’ve all had a weekend to digest the Ravitch Report, let’s check in with the prevailing opinion. How the wind blows in the pages of New York’s editorial pages will go a long way toward determining the success or failure of this plan as it hits the state legislature.
Let’s start with the Paper of Record. The New York Times voiced its unconditional support for the plan:
Almost every commuter recognizes that a fare increase is inevitable, but that is unnecessarily onerous. The cost of a vibrant city, fed by its daily influx of commuters, should be shared by others who benefit. That means drivers, who face less traffic because so many other people leave their cars at home. And businesses that can draw employees from across the metropolitan area should also contribute…
Some of New York City’s most vocal politicians complained about how the Ravitch plan affects local drivers, especially in Queens and Brooklyn. Vetoing new tolls makes little sense unless these officials can come up with other ways to maintain and improve the enormous city transportation network.
Governor Paterson said New Yorkers face “one source of pain or another” to keep the M.T.A. up to speed. The right choice would be to spread that pain around beyond those who take public transit.
The Daily News, somewhat surprisingly but very pragmatically, liked the plan as well:
It is particularly sensible to build long-term fiscal stability on the three-legged stool of reasonably increased fares for riders, a modest tax on businesses and new tolls for drivers. Without effective and functioning mass transit, businesses might as well relocate to Toledo. A small additional per-employee fee would yield huge dividends.
Drivers coming over the bridges benefit from the reduced traffic and cleaner air that trains, buses and subways help provide. Which was the idea behind the congestion pricing proposal Mayor Bloomberg put forward – though without the $354 million in federal transit money the city would have gotten along with it. And for those who use public transportation every day – well, an 8% increase is far, far preferable to the doomsday 23% hike that would be required if Ravitch hadn’t found a way to spread responsibility around. Plus, the predictability of biannual fare hikes, tagged to inflation, makes sense for family budgets.
Paterson is right to have come out in support of this plan. Now, it falls to lawmakers to have the courage to implement it, even as they face the massive, still-outstanding challenge of grappling with gallons of red ink.
On the other side of the aisle, The Post wrote a disjointed piece bemoaning the tax increases. They write:
Think about it: Do companies need further incentive to cut labor costs in New York’s current recession economy?
It would be one thing if Ravitch had suggested sharing the pain – by squeezing some concessions from the MTA’s labor force, for example, but he does not. And while there is a lot of talk about cutting state and city spending, very little has actually happened – and very little is likely to happen.
Finally, Newsday thinks Ravitch was too kind on the MTA, and the Long Island paper voices its support for the alternative licensing and registration fee increase proposal that I will get around to debating as soon as the demands of my finals allow me to:
A report delivered last week by a high-profile commission, intended to solve the MTA’s funding problems for good, dances around the integrity issue but never addresses it head-on. The problem with the MTA is not just lack of money but lack of faith.
In this respect, the report is a disappointment. It offers no reassurance that management has wrung wasteful expense out of the behemoth agency. Yet, one after another, news stories suggest there are savings to be had. A report by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli last month found the agency weighted down with 70,000 employees, many in redundant jobs, with plans to hire hundreds more. In marketing and public relations alone, the MTA employs 444…
The commission, headed by the highly respected former MTA chief Richard Ravitch, was charged with finding new revenue sources to cover a $1.2-billion shortfall next year, as well as a five-year construction and maintenance program. The Ravitch Commission should have looked internally first. How about a five-point plan, outlining how the agency would be restructured, top to bottom?
I’m particularly intrigued by the Newsday suggestion. I know some commenters here and on Streetsblog were a bit shocked that the report did not advocate more internal cost-cutting measures at the MTA. But otherwise, support is shaking down as expected. While Newsday’s support is lukewarm, three papers champion the East River tolling plan while one out-right dismisses the whole endeavor. Hopefully, the voices for change can outshine those clamoring for a disastrous status quo.
In the end, we’ll either get slammed with a huge fare hike or everyone can bear the costs. I know what I prefer. Do you?