Home MTA Bridges and Tunnels Smarter work rules lead to Bridges & Tunnels savings

Smarter work rules lead to Bridges & Tunnels savings

by Benjamin Kabak

Earlier this afternoon, MTA CEO and Chair Jay Walder along with new MTA Bridges & Tunnels President Jim Ferrara spoke to reporters about this agency’s plans for budget reductions and cost savings. It was another in the MTA’s ongoing attempts to close a massive budget hole, and as Bridges & Tunnels is the only agency that turns a profit, I was intrigued to hear about the authority’s plans for it.

First a brief history lesson: When the MTA formed, the city had to find a way to fund transit, and they eyed the huge surpluses at Robert Moses’ Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority as a key source of revenue. So as part of a move to depose Moses from power and find a solution to the subway’s constant annual budget deficits, Triborough and the New York City Transit Authority were merged under the umbrella of the MTA. Since 1968, the various bridges and tunnels under MTA control have continually turned a profit, and those dollars helped allow the MTA to kee subway and bus fares at levels that made the system accessible to all.

With that in mind, the MTA doesn’t need to have the Bridges & Tunnels division save money. It is still, after all, running at a surplus. But by asking the departments to streamline work shifts and operational efficiencies, the trickle-down effect results in more money for the region’s bus and rail networks. So today, Bridges & Tunnels announced approximately $10 million in additional savings for 2010 to bring its total annual savings for this year up to $20 million, and those savings are projected to be $25 million next year.

While some of the savings are rather technical — the eight preventative maintenance shops will be centralized into four shops — one key area involves maintenance work schedules. Currently, Bridges & Tunnels workers are on the clock from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. even though the agency doesn’t perform road work during rush hour. Instead, since most non-emergency repairs are completed at night, the workers earn overtime during the late-night shifts. To combat the spread of overtime, the agency is shifting workers from the daytime to a new 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift.

With this new shift, the agency will reduce overtime by approximately $4.8 million, and they did so within the contours of their current labor contracts. Workers will have the chance to bid on overnight shifts that carry a 10 percent bump in salary, and daytime workers will, by and large, lose out on the overnight time-and-a-half shifts. It is, said Ferrara and Walder, a more efficient way of doing business.

On the one hand, this is a common-sense moved designed to combat the spread of overtime, and it highlights how Jay Walder is intent on streamlining MTA operations. On the other, it’s a duh-worthy moment that makes me question how the MTA had been doing business beforehand. Still, these savings and efficiencies are better late than never, and even if the dollars are small based on the overall deficit, every little bit is a step forward.

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JP May 13, 2010 - 9:19 pm

bravo. a penny saved is a penny earned.

Scott E May 14, 2010 - 7:52 am

And in another small, but symbolically significant gesture, the MTA Long Island bus will save $375,000 per year by using a blue vinyl strip on the side of the buses rather than painting them on. It’s cheaper to paint the whole thing white.

No word on whether or not this scheme will be, or has been, implemented across the city buses (that I can find, anyway).

Al D May 14, 2010 - 12:21 pm

Let’s hope that this sets the stage, and is used as an example for the TWU negotiation.

Rhywun May 14, 2010 - 10:49 pm

“those dollars helped allow the MTA to keep subway and bus fares at levels that made the system accessible to all”

…but left the financing of transit subject to the endless political wrangling and pitting of New Yorkers against each other that we see today–in direct contrast to the oft-posited motivation for creating the MTA in the first place. We want transit to be affordable to all–a goal that I don’t oppose–but at the same time we’ve structured the whole system so that it’s impossible to fund in bad economic times such as we have now. I applaud cost savings such as those mentioned in the article. It’s an easy way to save some money, but in the end it doesn’t come close to solving the long-term problem of funding a system that charges far less than it costs to operate.

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