Home MTA Economics Opening up the MTA payroll logs

Opening up the MTA payroll logs

by Benjamin Kabak

One of the many charges leveled against the MTA concerns the amount of money those at the top get paid. It’s outrageous that former CEO and Executive Director earned $290,000 in 2008, right? It’s crazy that upper level management should get fairly compensated! Let’s cut their salaries before raising the fares.

Frankly, that’s an illogical line of reasoning. Sander in 2008 oversaw an agency that consisted of 78,393 paid employees. His successor will oversee one that features nearly as many, and a CEO working in the private sector would receive well more than ten times what Sander’s take-home pay amounted to last year. Sander and the agency presidents each making $200,000 a year or more aren’t overpaid.

That isn’t to say that all is A-OK with regards to the MTA’s payroll. Now that the Empire Center for New York State Policy, an off-shoot of the Manhattan Institute, has publicized salary information for all MTA employees, we can better understand what the MTA’s labor costs and challenges are.

The information for the MTA is available here as a searchable database. It includes, per the See Through NY Web site, “names, positions, wage and salary rates, and total pay (including overtime and other extras) of every individual who worked for the MTA during the 2008 calendar year.” While searching through it can be more than a little overwhelming, the Empire Center has put out a press release with some top-line information:

More than 10 percent of the MTA’s workforce–8,214 individuals in all–took home $100,000 or more in total pay, including overtime. The MTA’s six-figure club included:

  • 10 employees who earned more than $250,000, averaging $102,000 over their base salaries;
  • 44 employees who earned between $200,000 and $250,000, averaging $89,000 over their base salaries;
  • 600 employees who earned between $150,000 and $200,000; and
  • 7,560 individuals who earned between $100,000 and $150,000.

Eleven of the 654 employees who earned more than $150,000 in 2008 were Long Island Railroad car repairmen who earned an average of $206,000—which was $143,000 over their average base pay rate of $63,000. Other popular titles in the $150,000-and-over category included:

  • 62 Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Railroad conductors who averaged $83,000 over their base salaries which averaged only $82,000;
  • 40 police officers averaging $79,000 over their average base pay of $90,000;
  • 39 gang foremen averaging $87,000 over their average base pay of $79,300; and
  • 30 Long Island Railroad engineers averaging $103,000 over their average base pay of $73,000.

It seems as though the MTA could save on labor costs simply by hiring more workers and eliminating overtime. How many hours must these workers be putting in to nearly double their salaries? That is a prime example of poor upper management and oversight.

In the end, the MTA’s fiercest critiques will decry this information as yet another sign that MTA workers are overpaid. That isn’t really true. This people are paid at levels that are fairly compensatory. The problem is that there are just too many of them. The MTA needs to cut internally, but a true slicing and dicing of the authority’s payrolls would require a complete reorganization of the seven-agency beast that is the MTA. I just don’t know, though, who has the clout to fight the unions and Albany. It would be quite the uphill battle.

You may also like


rhywun July 1, 2009 - 7:39 am

Presumably, a doubling of one’s salary would require working 66.66 hours every week (overtime at time and a half). In the real world, most people who are pushing six digits are salaried and get nothing extra no matter how long they work. But in the end I’m not even sure cutting the overtime would save money: hiring new workers is expensive, too.

Cen-Sin July 1, 2009 - 8:22 am

That’s good pay for someone just driving a train. Sign me up!

Working Class July 1, 2009 - 8:25 am

In the NYCT part of the MTA they are understaffed at all times in hourly positions and over staffed in managerial positions. They say that it is cheaper to pay O.T. than hire new employees who need to be trained and given benefits. Why they are always inventing new managerial jobs that are useless I can’t figure out.

But if you noticed from that article in the DN yesterday the TA has the majority of the workers but less than 10% of the highest earners.

Scott E July 1, 2009 - 8:41 am

Hiring new workers isn’t always a better alternative to overtime. Overtime can be assigned as-needed, with little or no advance notice (for instance, someone calls out sick, an emergency/track condition needs immediate attention, etc). Also, overtime doesn’t need to be in eight-hour shifts, as regular employee shifts tend to be.

That said, those numbers (62 LIRR/MNR conductors, 40 police officers, 39 foremen, etc) demonstrating excessive OT aren’t all that meaningful unless put in context — those 62 conductors comprise what percent of ALL conductors?

Alon Levy July 1, 2009 - 11:10 am

Eleven of the 654 employees who earned more than $150,000 in 2008 were Long Island Railroad car repairmen who earned an average of $206,000

Is that supposed to be an outrage? If it is, I just can’t see it. Eleven highly-paid rolling stock repairmen made about as much as the average US doctor; in the rest of the world, one without an AMA to humiliate immigrant doctors and restrict physician supply, doctors get paid about as much as the rest of the LIRR’s repairmen. Personally, I prefer to get outraged over the AMA rather than the TWU. Your mileage may vary.

nycpat July 1, 2009 - 11:54 am

LIRR is not a TWU shop.

Working Class July 1, 2009 - 12:31 pm

You’re correct but this site has proven to be very biased against the lowest paid of the MTA’s employees those that are represented by the TWU. The LIRR and MNR have many different unions like the brotherhood of locomotive engineers and the teamsters for example.

rhywun July 1, 2009 - 6:53 pm

My beef is less with the unions–who are merely fulfilling the reason for their existence, which is to extract as much money from the taxpayer as possible–than the craven political machine which has ruled NYC for decades, handing out favors to reliable voting blocs.

Driving Us Nuts With Text Messages - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com July 1, 2009 - 11:49 am

[…] executives should be getting paid less before raising subway fares? Think again. A look at the authority’s hard numbers of 2008. [Second Avenue […]

zgori July 2, 2009 - 10:09 am

So it looks like the median take home in all of NYCT is about $65k. That does seem a little high — I would have expected more like $55 — but not outrageously so. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime does seem crazy though, whether it’s cheaper than hiring more people or not. I suspect there’s a lot of favoritism and corruption involved in doling those hours out, and likely some abuse as well. I suppose that’s the way of the world though.

This will be some nice ammunition for the people who like to talk about how wasteful the agency is and further deflect responsibility from the politicians who keep it underfunded (and who, of course, back the unions at contract time).

petey July 2, 2009 - 5:54 pm

i, for one, am glad to see actual workers doing as well as some mgmt. “just” driving a train indeed.

“the reason for their existence, which is to extract as much money from the taxpayer as possible”
well, er, no, the reason for their existence is to provide as much economic security for the membership as possible, whether they give their labor to public or private entities. but let me try to guess your politics…

internal revenue service complication?,internal revenue service wage garnishment,internal revenue service garnish,irs garnishments help on bank levy June 6, 2014 - 10:32 am

Ahaa, its fastidious discussion on the topic of this article here at this website, I have read all that, so now me also commenting at this place.


Leave a Comment