Ravitch Rumor Mill: Report to Urge More Investment in BRT

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Mobilizing the Region has scooped up some interesting nuggets about the Ravitch Commission’s soon-to-be-released report:

…insiders tell MTR that Ravitch is likely to recommend improved
bus service, including increased investment in bus rapid transit and
the establishment of a MTA Regional Bus Authority. The latter would
take control of suburban bus systems like Long Island Bus and
Westchester’s Bee-Line Bus, potentially ending the annual battles over
funding and resulting in substantial service improvements for bus
riders. The former could offer near-term improvements in transit
service for many outer borough residents out of the subway’s reach…

Improved MTA oversight, transparency and strengthening of governance
may also make the short list of recommendations, according to those who
have seen the report.

When the commission held its first public hearing this September, there were still a lot of unsettled questions about its exact purpose. Several speakers asked Ravitch to extend the scope of his recommendations beyond how to fund the MTA — to examine the agency’s operations and identify reforms that can build its credibility. Looks like that testimony will be reflected in the final product.

Photo of Select Bus Service: Brad Aaron

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Insiders tell MTR that Ravitch is likely to recommend improved bus service, including increased investment in bus rapid transit and the establishment of a MTA Regional Bus Authority. The latter would take control of suburban bus systems like Long Island Bus and Westchester’s Bee-Line Bus, potentially ending the annual battles over funding and resulting in substantial service improvements for bus riders.”

    That’s only potential. The reality is that NYC would be drained to an even greater extent to fund the bus lines in the suburbs, where the share of operating revenues captured by the fare is much lower. And when the time comes to slash bus service because there isn’t enough money, those suburbs will gang up on NYC and ensure the cuts are made here.

    Those of us with long and bitter experience understand what “regional thinking” really means.

  • Kate

    Larry, There is no reason to assume that MTA taking over Long Island or Bee-Line Bus will stop the counties from contributing to the system, hurting the MTA’s bottom line. Even if this was the case, LI Bus operations consume a very small portion of MTA operating revenue (something like 1%).

    And there is no reason why bus riders in Nassau and Westchester should see inferior service, especially when many of them are actually from people from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx heading to jobs.

    I would also argue that there is a serious equity issue in play here.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “There is no reason to assume that MTA taking over Long Island or Bee-Line Bus will stop the counties from contributing to the system, hurting the MTA’s bottom line.”

    Kate: Nassua County stopped contributing Long Island Bus years ago, in the last budget crisis. At that time some suburuban counties, notably Rockland, started getting rebates on their portion of the MTA taxes to use on roads, with MTA taxes collected in NYC used to make up the difference.

    The Bee-Line is not a part of the MTA network, and is a cost of Westchester. Westchester County executives have long decried the inequity, insisting on a deal like Nassau County gets. Not what NYC gets.

    In 1968, the MTA took over both the NYC Transit system, with its deficits, and the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority, with its surpluses. The deal had 2/3 of the TBTA surplus going to NYC transit service in the short run, but was structured in such a way that (due to inflation) it would eventually fall to 50%. Even though 50% is the floor according to the agreement of 1968, the city’s share has still fallen below that in some years.

    Etc, etc, etc.

    “I would also argue that there is a serious equity issue in play here.”

    The equity issue, from the point of view of those outside the city, is that the relative taxes city residents pay, and what they get for them, do not fully reflect the relative value of different people. A worse deal is better than we deserve as a result.

  • Larry:

    Nassau County still provides a subsidy towards Long Island Bus. In September they issued their proposed 2009 budget. The contribution towards Long Island Bus was scheduled to be $10.5M. If they end up giving that amount, it would mark the 5th straight year the subsidy was $10.5M. I find it pathetic how the amount hasn’t increased even though ridership is up in the same time period.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Again, Nassau County’s contribution was eliminated (then I guess restored at a nominal rate) when the county nearly went bankrupt due to fiscal mismanagement, and got a state bail out.

    “JOEL STASHENKO, Associated Press Writer
    AP Online 06-15-2000
    Nassau Bailout Package OK’d

    ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The state Legislature has voted to bail out one of the wealthiest counties in America, approving a measure expected to be signed by Gov. George Pataki.

    The Nassau County aid package is designed to get the Long Island county out from under a shortfall of more than $100 million that is projected to grow to more than $300 million by 2003.

    The county counts some of the wealthiest residents in New York among the 1.3 million people in its boundaries just east of New York City. Its median annual income of $58,155 is among the highest in the nation.”

    This is the reason Suozzi is the County Executive — the Republican machine that made the mess was kicked out.

  • Moser

    Actually, Gulotta’s proposed cuts to Long Island Bus were defeated in 2000 by a big outpouring of bus riders and transit workers and sympathetic people in the county legislature.

    Larry, maybe go back to your daily rant about the generational ponzi scheme that constitutes our government, as if that is somehow something new in our history.

  • Talk of BRT always worries me–not because I don’t like the idea but because I see it as a way of getting out of doing things like tram line or subway improvements. Watching the Street Film from the 2006 blizzard and how the trains still worked even though cars (and presumably to an extent buses) didn’t reinforce how much more reliable (and energy efficient) trains can be. Not to mention they can’t be removed as easily in times of car-mania.

    Any word on where any BRTs are proposed?

  • Rhywun

    BRT doesn’t worry me much, at least here in NYC, because it’s dirt cheap and overcrowded lines that need better service *now* can get it in a couple years rather than waiting 15 or 20 years for rail. AFAIK there are five demonstration lines, one in each borough, on lines that were never considered for rail anyway. Sure, rail would be better, but you have to be realistic. Now if they tried to junk the 2nd Ave subway for BRT, then I would worry.

  • Tax Tax

    MTA TAKING ON MORE COUNTIES WOULD BE LIKE GM TAKING ON MORE MODEL CARS AT THIS TIME !!WESTCHESTER COUNTY HAS A DECENT BUS SYSTEM ONE THAT THE MTA HAS VISITED MANY TIMES AND STRIVE TO BE LIKE.MTA SHOULD BE RUN BY MORE PRIVATE COMPANYS NOT ELEMINATING THEM AND THEN HAVING NO ACCOUNTABALTY.WHAT A GREAT REPORT ON HOW MTA CAN CUT AND SAVE THIER SYSTEM TAX TAX SMART THINKING .HOW MUCH DID THAT REPORT COST ??? INSTEAD OF RENAMING BRIDGES AND STUPID IDEAS LIKE THAT WHY DO WE NOT HEAR OF MANIGERS PAY CUTS AND UNION CONCESSIONS LIKE WE EXPECT FROM GM.

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