Dear Mr. Brodsky: What Now?

In today’s Times, Richard Brodsky weighs in on the pitfalls of shortchanging capital needs in the face of the immediate MTA budget crisis.

"The need for investment in the system is gargantuan," said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky,
a Democrat from Westchester County who is chairman of a committee that
oversees the authority. "Twenty-five years from now what we do on the
capital plan will resonate much more loudly than what the debate is
going to be about fare increases."

"It would be a terrible mistake to take whatever resources may be
available and use them all on the operating side," Mr. Brodsky said.

The key words here: "whatever resources may be available." As the MTA contemplates eliminating bus routes and subway lines in addition to raising fares, we have not yet heard a proposed solution from Brodsky, who promised Streetsblog in April that he and his colleagues, having killed congestion pricing, would "continue … good faith efforts to deal with the real problems of congestion and mass transit funding."

We have a message in with Brodsky’s office in hopes of getting his views on potential service cuts, fare hikes, and the possibility that the Ravitch Commission will recommend measures that he has opposed in the past, including congestion pricing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Let us not forget that Democrats will be in charge of the entire federal and state governments, so Brodsky and Weiner can’t blame another political party. Which is why I’m glad it turned out that way.

    People now understand what the Republicans are — can someone put Skelos out of our misery? Now they’ll find out what the Democrats are. There is a sliver of hope at the national level. Albany? Forget it.

  • Federal Funds

    Brodsky and Co. will say it’s all up to Washington to provide emergency operating help and fund the capital plan. Maybe the reprobates in Albany will will get lucky and the feds will save the MTA from its borrowing and years of reductions in state assistance.

  • half empty

    Federal funds may help out with some capital costs and maybe, maybe might get steered towards some operating expenses, but without major debt restructuring or some systemic overhaul the MTA will be in trouble until it is no longer.

  • The MTA is a state agency. Brodsky is a state elected official — and as the Times pointed out, “chairman of a committee that oversees the authority.” Now Brodsky is ruminating over whether the capital budget will get shortchanged in favor of the operating budget. But it Brodsky’s responsibility to fund BOTH the capital and operating budgets of the MTA — through congestion pricing, tolls, state appropriations, and whatever else it takes. His constituents, some of whom are transit users, should insist on nothing less.

  • half empty

    Mark, the MTA is not a state agency, if it was it would need to have a balanced budget. It’s a public authority sprung from the closed-door dealings of Robert Moses and the brothers Rockefeller and likely to live, die or be born-again by some similarly secret shenanigans.

  • Larry Littlefield

    What the legislature would prefer to do is make a non-decision — no fare increases or service cuts until the MTA has no cash and shuts down.’

    Then blame someone else.

    Then have the most profitable parts of the system gradually open, and take credit for “FIGHTING FOR THE PEOPLE” by “ADDING” transit service.

    They’re scum.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Half Empty – See above piece particularly but not limited to:

    “The budget presented today fulfills the MTA’s responsibility to put forward a balanced budget for the coming year,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer.

    And regardless of whatever Moses and Rocky did behind closed doors the MTA was created by Legislative action. One big reason the Legislature and Rocky put it together like they did was so that fares COULD be raised without the politicians having to take the blame. The inability of politicians to actually raise fares was what drove the original private operators completely bankrupt. Since then the political resistance to fare increases, understandable though it is, has allowed the advocates for the system to lever service improvements, and since 1994 fare incentives to acquiesce to fare increases.

    Each round that has been increasingly brokered by the Tabloids, themselves long bankrupt, this round very bankrupt (including their ideas and reportage). The MTA makes an easy target for reporters, all the information is public and the fact that these budget problems can even pass as news is really a tribute to how badly they do their job at explaining the complex yet critical aspects of transportation political economy. The attention span of the tabloid reader is much shorter than the average blogger and most Daily News and Post readers actually think that the MTA is making money.

    The reality is that the actual average TA fare is about $1.35 or so, though you would never know that by reading the paper. Thats roughly the same as it was in 1994. Factoring in inflation, a reasonable thing to do, makes the fare now less than a $1 in 1994 money or about 75% of that benchmark fare.

    That is not to say that now is a good time to raise the fare. There is never a good time to raise the fare. But when times were good, in terms of the other funding factors, especially the Mortgage Recording Tax revenues and employement, some of the debts ideally should have been paid. Instead, the hallelujah chorus made sure that fares stayed low. Now with all economic sectors in broad meltdown we are truly fucked.

    Fares cannot and should not pay for the entire operating budget but regular moderate increases, somewhat in line with the CPI, are much easier for the rider to take and much easier for the Authority to budget for. However, the political leverage created by spasmodic, huge increases, is lost to the advocates. And the political pinata effect when politician get to whack the Authority to see how many goodies they can make fall out, is lost.

  • Robert Mack

    The MTA needs to send some people to Hong Kong to figure out how exactly it is that the MTR, HK’s equivalent of the MTA actually manages to make money while providing commuters with clean, reliable, safe and efficient transportation.

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