At 9:30 a.m., the MTA will meet — or will have met, depending upon when you read this — to vote on, among other items, a 23 percent fare hike and massive service cuts to its transportation offerings. While a prior commitment will prevent me from live-blogging the proceedings, you can catch a webstream here. The fare hike happenings will be early on, and I’ll have an update on site as soon as I’m back at my computer.
Meanwhile, on Doomsday Budget Eve, New York politicians and the newspaper editorial boards that love and loathe are all pointing fingers at one august body. Right now, the State Senate and its leaders on both sides of the aisle are getting creamed by pols and papers alike.
The party started earlier this week when the Daily News based both Malcolm Smith and Dean Skelos, the Senate Majority and Minority leaders respectively, for their failing to support the MTA. These politicians, both from transit-dependent districts, have known for a year about the transit doom heading New York City’s way, and then two of them stood by idly as comprehensive proposals to fix the MTA’s finances were supported by everyone else but the Senate.
Late yesterday afternoon, Sheldon Silver, the man responsible for killing congestion pricing in 2008, hopped on the Blame the Senate bandwagon. While Silver’s obstructionism last spring shut off one source of dedicate revenue for the MTA, he guaranteed that the Assembly would pass the Ravitch Plan. His statement:
Let me be clear, the Assembly Majority is ready to pass a plan to save the MTA and prevent a massive fare hike. Our plan would prevent the proposed cuts and fare hikes by sharing the burden of transit costs. Those who use the bridges would pay a toll that is equal to what New Yorkers pay for a subway or a bus ride, and employers would invest in the system through a small payroll tax. We had hoped that the Senate would support our plan. The Assembly is prepared to act on this proposal to avoid the huge fare increases and draconian service cuts that would have a devastating effect on all New Yorkers.
Mayor Bloomberg, echoing a famous line from Network, urged New Yorkers to call their Senators in Albany to urge them to save transit. “If Albany doesn’t come through, then the straphangers are going to have to bear the brunt of this. I don’t think that’s good for the system. I don’t think it’s good for our economy,” Bloomberg, a man who knows a thing or two about money, said. “But we cannot walk away from mass transit. We have to have it. So I hope it doesn’t get to that, but if it does, what I would suggest when you see what’s going to happen to your commuting costs, you should call your state legislators and say, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.'”
And finally, today’s editorial in The Times names names. Writes the Grey Lady of Republican Senators from New York who won’t deviate from the strict anti-Ravitch stance of the state G.O.P.:
Among city Republicans who should be interested in helping the M.T.A. are Senators Martin Golden of Brooklyn, Frank Padavan of Queens and Andrew Lanza of Staten Island. There are also a few Republicans upstate who should be trumpeting the Silver plan because of businesses in their districts that depend on the M.T.A. They include Senators Elizabeth Little of Glens Falls, Joseph Griffo of Rome and George Winner of Elmira.
As the State Senate turns its back on eight million riders a day, the M.T.A. can’t just wait. They could start preparing fare machines and scheduling delays set for June — unless Albany wakes up and comes to the rescue.
So that’s that. In 10 hours from my writing this, the MTA Board will have approved a fare hike/service cut plan to balance its budget as required by state law. Those who write the laws, though, won’t act and won’t take responsibility for their inaction. As Bloomberg and Silver do, as The Times and The Daily News do, I too blame our State Senate for the decline and fall of transit in New York City at a time when we need it most.