Today’s Headlines

  • MTA Unveils Grim 2009 Budget; Electeds and Advocates React (NYT, News, Post, NY1)
  • News Pins Responsibility for MTA Woes on Albany’s ‘Gutless Wonders’
  • How Budget Cuts Will Affect Service (News)
  • Congress Tells Carmakers to Come Back With a Better Bailout Plan (NYT)
  • Auto Execs’ PR Savvy Rivals That of MTA Board (CNN, Wheels)
  • New Traffic Safety Paradigm: Reduce VMT, Reduce Risk (Planetizen)
  • Landmarks Commission Approves 90-Car Underground Garage for Brooklyn Heights (Bklyn Paper)
  • Portland DOT Proposes City’s First Cycle Track (BikePortland)
  • Elaborate Sticker Scheme Helps Albany Cops and Friends Evade Parking Fines (Times Union)
  • The ‘Draft Anthony Weiner for Senate’ Movement Begins (Cap’n Transit)
  • Larry Littlefield

    “Gene Russianoff, a spokesman for the rider advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign, assailed the agency’s plans. With the economy souring and more people counting on affordable public transit, now is no time for a ”whopping fare hike,” he said.”

    Right Gene. The time for regular, small fare hikes was when the economy was up. Back then, with the addition of discounts, the fare was being slashed relative to inflation, and you were pushing for it and considered a hero.

    Money was borrowed to offset that — and the cuts in state and local aid, and the pension increases, and higher prices paid to contractors. “Everybody wins.”

    What the political players want is what they have demanded in the past. Several years of deferred maintenance. A total collapse of service. And then a fare hike of at least 33%, probaby closer to 50%. Look back to the history of fare hikes (I provided it in one of my former Room 8 posts). The typical pattern over 100 years is disaster followed by a hike much greater than is being proposed.

    And once the real situation is acknowledged, we may get it.

  • Tod

    I agree. One-Note Russianoff is becoming tiresome and counterproductive.

  • ddartley

    If we draft Anthony Weiner into anything, how about drafting him into the war he voted for? I don’t particularly want him doing anything “for” New York.

  • Tom

    On the Bill Moyers Journal this evening on PBS, a story of a local Texas investigation of what lies beneath our streets is explored. Leaking and faulty gas pipelines are contaminating ground water and soil. But, more importantly even, these faulty lines can and have caused explosions – killing people. This is a problem throughout the country, but especially in the South along the Gulf coast. Massive sprawl and development happened after the pipelines had been established. As a result, roads and homes have been built directly on top of these aging lines.

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/blueprintamerica/reports/beneath-the-north-texas-dirt/overview/25/

  • I think Russianoff is probably the worst of the “something for nothing” brigade.

  • “If the budget is approved as is, subway riders next year would pay 83 percent of the cost of operating the system, up from 69 percent this year. In other words, public subsidies would pay for only 17 percent of the costs.” – NY Times

    Subway riders get less subsidy than any other public transportation users in the US – and less subsidy than automobile drivers, if you count the hidden costs of free parking, free use of local roads, contribution to global warming and energy shortages, etc.

    Ideally, transportation should not be subsidized. But I don’t think we should reduce the subsidies to public transportation without creating a level playing field by reducing the subsidies to the automobile at the same time.

  • Jay

    About the sticker story, so apparently if you just have this bullseye sticker you get a fake (blank) parking ticket? So why can’t someone just take a photo of it? Reproduce it, make a few thousand stickers, if you know someone in a print shop it might be fairly cheap. Pass them around. I assume the pool of people using the real stickers is so large already that the ticket-givers don’t verify anything, they just check for the bullseye.

  • mike

    “I think Russianoff is probably the worst of the ‘something for nothing’ brigade.”

    Huh, that’s funny, ‘coz that’s not what he’s been advocating for all these years. Most recently, the Straphangers Campaign came out strong for congestion pricing.

    Josh, what have you done to support transit?

  • Yeah, whatever you can say about Russianoff, he’s nowhere near as much “something for nothing” as John Liu, Hakeem Jeffries or Lew Fidler.

  • OK, fair enough, but a transit advocate supporting congestion pricing is supporting something for nothing for the people he represents. I seem to remember the Straphangers Campaign being strongly against the 2003 fare increase to $2, for example. (Wikipedia agrees with this but it’s unsourced.)

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Theres a saying on the railroads that “regulations are written in blood”. And, I think the MTA budget situation is that sort of culture. When things are going well increasing taxpayer or toll payer support is very difficult to achieve. Only when things are really screwed up will others agree to pay more. Thats Larry’s point and pretty much the history of the system for the last 100 years. Last year they tried the carrot, teasing the public with a grand capital plan if only the public agrees to congestion pricing. Then the operating budget stepped in to take a slice of the public mind with the veiled threat that without CP fares would go up. That didn’t work, it didn’t scare anyone, and the deficit got much worse too as a function of the general economic collapse. Now they are trying the stick, enormous fare increases and services cuts al priori to the release of the Ravitch commission tome. Ideally they will have coordinated the fare and toll increase proposal to coincide nicely with congestion pricing and the politicians will be held to account. But time is passing and with each tick of the clock the hole gets deeper.
    And its not Russianoff’s fault if people don’t understand the CPI, value of money, business cycle, bond insurance and pension underfunding. These are all complex analytical tools that don’t fit well into a headline in the Post or the News. People want to believe what they want to believe and they want to believe that they are getting screwed even if the fare in 1994 dollars is 25% of what the fare was in 1994.

  • Ann

    Josh, Tod, Larry,

    You have no right to criticize an advocate like Russianoff who has accomplished 100000% more than you have for transit riders. No offense to the smart, hard working streetsblog folks, but I doubt your posts in the comments section are successfully changing the world.

    Time to get off the computer and go do something instead of criticizing dedicated advocates.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I feel I have every right to criticize everyone associated with the policies of the past 15 years. Russianoff’s part was falling fares; others got the 2000 pension enhancement, and reduced tax contributions to the authority.

    I objected to all of this, but those with my point of view lost, and those with Russianoff’s point of view won. If I don’t like the consequences, I have a right to say so.

    What happened was a giant game of chicken. Russianoff believed that if fares were pushed down, taxes would have to be raised to prevent disaster. State polticians and the interest that backed them assumed the disaster-averting sacrifices would eventually come out of someone else’s hide, if they took more out and put less in.

    No one conceded the obvious — the result, in a future no one cared about, would be disaster, not disaster avoided at someone else’s expense.

    So Mr. Russianoff is free to demand fare cuts rather than fare increases. Perhaps he’ll get them. And the state can feel free to reduce its budget deficit by slashing MTA operating aid, and perhaps seizing the MTA’s dwindling reserve fund.

    After all, it may be that at this point it no longer matters.

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