Huge Coalition Lines Up Behind Ravitch’s MTA Rescue Plan

The Daily News published an op-ed today that highlights the broad coalition of labor unions, business interests, good government groups, transportation advocates and neighborhood activists who want Albany to adopt the Ravitch Commission’s MTA rescue plan.

Yesterday the coalition sent this letter [PDF] to every member of the state legislature. Notably, three of the state’s biggest unions — the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International, and United Federation of Teachers — have signed on. These labor groups were not part of the coalition that fought for congestion pricing last year, but on this issue, they are firmly on board. On this issue, they’re united with the same business leaders whom they’re fighting against when it comes to the proposed millionaire’s tax. Unlike the State Senate, these leaders grasp the implications of sharply hiking fares while drastically cutting service. They don’t want to risk the region’s future by letting the transit system fall apart. They do want a plan that provides a long-term answer, and that includes bridge tolls. Here’s their full letter:

Dear Legislator:

We represent the citizens of New York who depend upon a safe, clean and reliable
public transportation system. We represent the working class New Yorkers — many of
whom do not own automobiles — who depend upon an affordable public transportation
system to get to their jobs, to their schools and to their health care providers. We
represent the employers of the region that recognize that a well functioning subway, bus
and commuter rail network is the prerequisite for continued economic growth and is
what sets New York apart from the rest of the country. We represent the hard-working
building trades and construction workers responsible for New York’s skyline that are
dependent upon public sector projects to put food on the table during these hard times.
And we represent those that care about reducing the asthma rates of children in
disproportionately impacted communities throughout the city and about making this
city a whole lot greener, more equitable and a little bit more livable.

We represent your constituents, and we are calling on you to act and adopt a
comprehensive, long term funding plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
It must be a plan that provides for affordable fares, expanded service and long term
capital investment. And it must be adopted now — before the Authority is forced to raise
fares and tolls by as much as 30 percent, while at the same time drastically reducing
service across the system.

The New York Legislature has had long enough to act. This issue is no surprise to those
that have been paying attention. Almost a year ago, Governor Paterson called on
Richard Ravitch to head a Commission to review options for comprehensively
addressing the MTA’s operating and capital funding needs. This Commission
represented business, labor, environmental advocates and everyday straphangers. And
the proposal that the Commission put forward has the broad-based support of all of
these constituencies — your constituencies. It is a proposal that is fair, balanced and
comprehensive. It relies on transit riders, motorists and the employers that benefit from
the system to all participate in the solution for saving the system.

Once again, we are calling for bipartisan action to respond to the needs of New Yorkers
and prevent a backsliding into the kind of neglect and disinvestment in our
transportation system that marked earlier decades and nearly crippled New York. With
funding for the MTA in place, we can move on to confront the other innumerable
challenges that our state faces in this time.

We stand united in our commitment to working with you and your colleagues towards
a solution to this crisis. We respectfully request a meeting with you in the coming days.

Sincerely,

Denis Hughes
President
New York State AFL-CIO

Gary LaBarbera
President
Building & Construction Trades Council

Mike Fishman
President
32BJ, Service Employees International Union

Randi Weingarten
President
United Federation of Teachers

Kathryn Wylde
President & CEO
Partnership for New York City

Richard T. Anderson
President
New York Building Congress

William C. Rudin
Chairman
Association for a Better New York

Dick Dadey
Executive Director
Citizens Union

Nancy Ploeger
President
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce

Gene Russianoff
Senior Attorney
Straphangers Campaign

Kevin Corbett
Co-Chair
Empire State Transportation Alliance

Kate Slevin
Executive Director
Tri-State Transportation Campaign

David Jones
President & CEO
Community Service Society of New York

Pratt Center for Community
Development

Fifth Avenue Committee

The POINT CDC

Erasmus Neighborhood Federation

Morningside Heights/West Harlem
Sanitation Coalition

  • Everywhere news is posted to support the Ravitch plan new Yorkers enmasse are protesting the stupidity of it. Everyone isn’t as stupid as the Governor. The rest of us know that the MTA is irresponsible and can only be controlled by making them ask for every dollar. They have wasted a massive amount of money and nobody who is thinking clearly wants to give them any more guaranteed revenue streams. The MTA is not only in a financial mess of its own design, but they announced yesterday that they want to spend another 50 billion dollars and only have 5 billion identified, setting up yet another crisis down the road. People who believe that there is any coalition behind the MTA are living in a dream state. Supporting the MTA is like supporting Al Capone, except that Capone was more efficient and kept better books.

    Ruben

  • I think the above spam-esque comments are exactly what’s wrong with this debate: the opposition is framing it as the MTA’s problem, forgetting that it’s not just the MTA’s problem – it’s also the problem of everyone who rides transit.

    Why should we let the millions of transit riders suffer through massive fare hikes because the MTA lacks transparency and could be streamlined? That takes years – this problem is clear and present and needs to be solved now.

  • Ian Turner

    Ruben,

    What do you propose to ensure that New York continues to enjoy a reliable and accessible transit system?

  • Ashcan Sam

    Are you suggestion, Mr. Safir, that we punish the riders and the city’s economy because of the perceived sins of the MTA?

    Or are you posting vast volumes of crud for some other reason?

    (You always were one my my favorite trolls to feed.)

  • The first post seems to be representative of the “populist” opinion of the MTA. It’s almost like the public +wants+ the agency to return to the glory days of the 70s and 80s.

  • The Park Slope Civic Council voted UNANIMOUSLY to support tolling the free East River and Harlem River crossings, with a number of provisos, many of which were carried over from our June 2007 endorsement of congestion pricing. For the complete text of the tolling resolution, go to http://parkslopeciviccouncil.org/bridgetolls.

  • Are you saying that you agree that sending 15.2 BILLION dollars on an LIRR extension to Grand Central Station is worth your fare hikes.

    People who support the MTA’s position have no answer for how to manage the Subways or provide transit. All you you want it to continue with the bloat and threats to the city without baring any responsibility.

    The MTA is now proposing another 50 billion in debt. Are you ready to pay it?

    Nobody wants this but a few loud mouth fanatics. Put it for a referendum. Spend 15.2 billion for the LIRR extension plus another 5 billion in debt service out of fares, no not.

    Ruben

  • BTW – it is very nice of you to delete my posts that prove how much the MTA are crooks.

    Here it is again so you actually can argue with the facts…

    The Evil that is the MTA

    Ruben Safir March 12th, 2009

    The Metropolitan Transit Authority is the single biggest threat to the
    long term stability of New York City. It has been standing on the throat
    of this city for decades, squeezing the economic life blood from this
    town. It has proven to be an irresponsible steward of this cities
    transportation network. It has political muscle and protection unlike
    any organization in our government. Unlike a private enterprise, it has
    no need to constrain its budget for the purposes of profitability.
    Unlike a government organization, it escapes any kind of voter over site
    at the ballot box. We are all victims of the MTA and its reckless use of
    government funds, and misguided priorities. This people, the voters of
    the City of New York, can never give the MTA enough funds to satiate its
    endless budget. Every dollar they acquire, they budget for completely,
    and then they spend one more. The MTA must die if the City of New York is
    to live.

    First of all, every citizen of this city needs to come to understand the
    basic facts of the MTA. It is an independent authority chartered under
    New York State Law which has no over site. It has an independent agenda.
    That agenda benefits the MTA, and is not designed to benefit New
    Yorkers. The MTA is not our friend, nor does it respond to our needs,
    and most of all it does not respond to public pressure or scrutiny. It
    borrows money and leaves the bills for the taxpayer and straphangers. It
    subsidizes suburban growth, and leaves the bill for the inner city
    working class. It buys glitzy toys, like underground radio systems, a
    connection for the LIRR to Grand Central Station along with the building
    of a new level at the terminal, it buys a new extension of the 7 train to
    the Javits Center, new cars with digital signage, elevators, and electronic
    billboards, it builds a completely uneeded new station complex at Fulton
    Street to bribe politicians who can’t figure out how to rebuild the WTC,
    but it ignores basic safety and traffic needs like switches and steel rails,
    station maintenance, and subway cars with enough signs to know what
    train your hoping on without needing to look over the platform with the
    train arriving. And then they spend hundreds of millions of dollars to
    preach to us. Don’t run up the escalator, Don’t lean over the platform
    (so then how do we know what train is coming since they have removed
    most of the side car signage), don’t walk between cars (which was really
    useful at stopping over crowding for nearly a hundred years before some
    idiot decided it was too dangerous), pick up your trash, and give your
    seat to a pregnant women.

    Enough. We can’t take it any more. In 2000 the MTA tried to ram part two
    of its capital budget program down our throats, by permitting the MTA
    more borrowing than it could ever afford, about 1.6 billion dollars with
    another 2.2 billion dollars of pork for upstate highways and roads. It
    was rejected soundly by the voters of New York State. But the MTA is
    like a fly. If you swat it away, it just comes back. In 2005 the MTA
    launched an “education program” for yet another statewide referendum,
    this time worth 2.9 billion dollars in funding. In 1995 the New York
    Times reported that State lawmakers were aghast at the 4.5 billion
    dollars that the MTA would need to borrow between 1997 and 1999. That’s
    right, we’ve been playing this game for a very long time. And the major
    infrastructure we got was the retirement of the perfectly usable Red
    Bird Cars on the IRT, and the completely unnecessary electronic signal
    system for the ‘L’ train. Is it that hard to safely run trains on a
    line that has exactly one outbound and one inbound track that we had
    to pay almost a billion dollars for it? And with looming service cutbacks
    was it worth it? And the station rehabilitations that were necessary,
    did we get them? Well? Maybe, sort of. They cost us way to much and
    took way too long according to Joseph Rappaport of the Straphangers
    Campaign “All we’re getting in station rehabs is what we were already
    promised, and we’re getting it three years late and having to shell out
    more in the fare to get it.”

    In 2003 the MTA attempted to side step the whole process when it created
    YET ANOTHER corporation in their authority with the creation of the
    Capital Construction Company with responsibility for overseeing system
    expansion projects for all MTA companies and managing their bonds. The latest
    plan for the MTA is for the state to do the same for the bond driven capital
    program through a charter. So then we’ll have yet another organization
    completely disenfranchised from the City’s electorate or even sensitive to
    the operations or fare burden, and which can raise fares and taxes without
    any over site whatsoever. Oh, and for those not watching, you should note
    that the latest Richard Ravitch plan calls for the elimination of public
    hearings for fare hikes.

    Don’t you love the Metrocard. Fares can be raised at will with a few key
    strokes.

    Yet between 1981 and 1991 over 16 billion dollars was spent on MTA
    capitalization. And that barely made a dent. The 2001 capital program
    borrowed money for a 1.1 billion dollar expansion of the LIRR to reach
    Grand Central Station. Who from the city would want this at the cost of
    a 2 dollar fare hike and service shutdowns? But these proposals go
    through the Capital Program review board which the Mayor is outnumbered
    by statewide office holders 3 to 1. And that is how we get this shoved
    down our throats. And when horse trading erupted over the 2nd avenue
    subway for the LIRR expansion the MTA responded with a two tier bond
    program that brought out older less expensive dept for a greater new
    bond act over a longer time. Predictions at the time were that this
    massive debt would cause fares to skyrocket up to $4.00. But that is not
    the MTA’s problem. Its just the problem of the poor guy schlepping to
    work or ibringing his family around to the museum from Brooklyn and Queens.
    It was known as a fact that this program would put massive pressure on MTA’s
    finances between 2005-2009, just as it has. And the program in 2000 was
    decried by everyone in the know about the MTA including the then former
    MTA chair Robert R. Kiley and Gene Russianoff, the same lawyer pushing
    not for east river bridge tolls, and who both wrote jointly at the time,
    “In sum, it is our conclusion that the plan not only does not fund new
    capacity, it threatens the ability of the MTA to continue its State of
    Good Repair program for this and future plans.”

    Need to see more? In February of 2004 the Mayor took the MTA to court to
    stop it from funneling monies for the Subway to buy new Metro North cars
    (NY Times: Feb 26th, 2004). The New York Times wrote then:

    The mayor is trying to exert influence on an obscure state panel that
    has the power to deny the $230 million in financing that the
    Metropolitan Transportation Authority needs for the new rail cars. He is
    also considering going to court over the issue if necessary, according
    to a senior aide to Mr. Bloomberg who spoke only on condition of
    anonymity.

    Then in December of 2004 the Times published this:

    Four years ago, the governor of New York and leading state legislators
    gave permission for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to pay off
    old bonds by borrowing $14 billion, creating a steep pile of new debt
    for a transit system filled with ancient structures, middle-aged
    equipment and little money to replace them.

    Today, with the M.T.A. facing short- and long-range financial crises,
    the public benefit of that decision remains a matter of vigorous
    dispute.

    On April 3rd, 2000 the Times published this little tidbit:

    In the last month, government and private analysts have developed a
    striking consensus that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s
    five-year, $16.5 billion capital improvement plan is a
    disaster-in-waiting, built on a mountain of borrowed money, that would
    force a major fare increase.

    They say the crush of debt would cripple the authority’s ability to keep
    New York City’s subways and buses and the commuter railroads in good
    repair, and would make the financing of future capital plans nearly
    impossible. The plan would require by far the largest sale of municipal
    bonds in history, more than $20 billion.

    October 3rd, 2004:

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is projecting budget deficits
    of more than a billion dollars in the coming years, and another round of
    fare increases and service cuts appears imminent. But now transportation
    authority officials want to spend even more money to continue to
    maintain the system, and even the authority’s critics are hard-pressed
    to fault them for it.

    The trouble is, no one has quite figured out how to pay for the
    improvements.

    “I don’t think there’s any question that more money is needed for the
    system’s operation and for upkeep and maintenance,” said Doug Turetsky,
    a spokesman for the Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan city
    agency, on the financial quandary. “The question is where those
    resources are going to come from.”

    On the authority’s shopping list: more than $17 billion in system
    upgrades and replacement of old equipment, $500 million for security
    improvements and several billion dollars for expansion projects,
    including the building of the first phase of the long-awaited Second
    Avenue subway and connecting the Long Island Rail Road with Grand
    Central Terminal.

    It is all part of the authority’s proposed five-year capital improvement
    plan for 2005 to 2009, sent to Albany last week for approval. Making his
    priority clear, Peter S. Kalikow, the authority’s chairman, said he
    would be willing to sacrifice the highly publicized expansion projects
    if it meant protecting the $17 billion for the existing system.

    “This is the minimum number that we will accept,” he said Wednesday at
    the authority’s board meeting. “It’s the minimum number to keep the
    system running.”

    It will be up to lawmakers, however, to wrangle over how to come up with
    the money, or if they even can.

    The problem is a familiar one for the authority. Similar hand-wringing
    accompanied the passage of the authority’s current $19 billion capital
    program for 2000 to 2004. In the end, much of that program was paid for
    by bonds, repaid out of riders’ fares. But that has left the authority
    facing a mountain of debt. Payments coming due on that debt are at the
    core of the authority’s struggle with its operating budget.

    As Gene Russianoff, a staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a
    transit advocacy group, put it, “Their credit card is maxed out.”

    Authority officials have made clear that issuing more debt, paid for by
    riders, would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

    October 25th, 2005:

    New York’s city and suburban transit network faces enormous,
    fast-growing debts and budget deficits, with no clear plan for
    addressing them. It raised fares last year, plans to raise them again
    next year and warns that it may do so again in 2006.

    This is not a surprise to people who monitor the Metropolitan
    Transportation Authority. The current situation was predicted four years
    ago by, among others, former top transit officials, fiscal watchdogs
    like the Independent Budget Office and the Citizens Budget Commission,
    the state comptroller, business groups like the New York City
    Partnership and transit advocates like the Regional Plan Association and
    the Straphangers Campaign.

    The financial problems, critics contend, are the direct result of more
    than a decade of policies by New York State, New York City, and the
    authority, which operates the city’s subways, buses, bridges and
    tunnels, and the Metro-North and Long Island commuter railroads. In
    particular, they point to a $17 billion capital maintenance and
    expansion program adopted four years ago that was broadly denounced at
    the time as a fiscal time bomb.

    March 6th 2003:

    The decision of transit officials to propose substantial fare increases
    to close a budget shortfall has not ended a bitter political fight about
    whether the public should be given more information about the
    Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget.

    The state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, a Democrat, has subpoenaed 18
    cartons of budget documents from the authority and forced three of its
    top budget officials to give lengthy depositions about their
    bookkeeping. He vowed today to continue that inquiry to its conclusion
    no matter what the authority’s board decides on Thursday when it votes
    on the fare increase.

    Both Mr. Hevesi and the New York City comptroller, William C. Thompson
    Jr., called on the authority’s board to postpone the vote Thursday until
    Mr. Hevesi’s office completed its review of the authority’s books.

    MTA debt is what is driving up the fares of the MTA. They have been
    rolling in public financed doe through out the fat years and now they
    must face the reality of a deep recession and a declining City economy.
    And it is LONG time for New York City to get its SUBWAY BACK without the
    interference of Albany. It is time for the Queen of Hearts and to stop
    the lies that our current state legislator is somehow responsible for
    the MTA’s crimes. If a massive fair hike comes on March 25th, it will be
    squarely the fault of the MTA. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS. It is high time to
    end the MTA

  • hen in December of 2004 the Times published this:

    Four years ago, the governor of New York and leading state legislators
    gave permission for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to pay off
    old bonds by borrowing $14 billion, creating a steep pile of new debt
    for a transit system filled with ancient structures, middle-aged
    equipment and little money to replace them.

    Today, with the M.T.A. facing short- and long-range financial crises,
    the public benefit of that decision remains a matter of vigorous
    dispute.

  • A third big M.T.A. project, the Fulton Street Transit Center, has had a
    troubled history. The project, a block from the World Trade Center site,
    was originally financed by the federal government with $750 million
    designated for rebuilding Lower Manhattan after 9/11. But costs kept
    rising, and last January the authority said that while work would
    continue on the underground portions of the project, it could no longer
    afford to move ahead with the above-ground structure. Now the M.T.A.
    hopes to use $497 million in federal stimulus money to complete the
    project. The date is uncertain.

  • And the projects will take years to complete. East Side Access, the
    project to link the Long Island Rail Road’s Main and Port Washington
    lines to a new terminal beneath Grand Central Terminal, is now projected
    to be completed by 2015, with a price tag of $15.2 billion.

  • State Sen. Brian Foley’s office yesterday cited data showing how MTA
    debt service payments of $609 million in 1996 have spiked to a forecast
    $1.5 billion in 2009. That works out to an estimated $125 million per
    month, said Ibrahim Kahn, spokesman for Foley (D-Blue Point).

  • Maybe Foley can ask Ruben Diaz why he voted so many times for budgets that forced the MTA to choose between cutting service, raising fares and borrowing.

  • Maybe the MTA can tell Foley why it spend 1.2 billion dollars to give the L train a system that tells you when the next train will come when they would have to cut the service in half to pay for it?

    Ruben

  • The problem is a familiar one for the authority. Similar hand-wringing
    accompanied the passage of the authority’s current $19 billion capital
    program for 2000 to 2004. In the end, much of that program was paid for
    by bonds, repaid out of riders’ fares. But that has left the authority
    facing a mountain of debt. Payments coming due on that debt are at the
    core of the authority’s struggle with its operating budget.

    As Gene Russianoff, a staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a
    transit advocacy group, put it, “Their credit card is maxed out.”

    Authority officials have made clear that issuing more debt, paid for by
    riders, would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

  • “Everyone predicted it, and it came true with a vengeance,” Gene
    Russianoff, of the city’s Straphangers’ Campaign, said Tuesday,
    following a news conference with Gov. David A. Paterson aimed at
    prodding state senators to act on a painful new revenue plan

  • “We estimate that it will cost in the range of $50 to $60 billion to
    complete these investments. Here’s the problem, we’ve only identified $5
    billion in available funds,” said Joel Ettinger, New York Metropolitan
    Transportation Council.

  • First of all, every citizen of this city needs to come to understand the
    basic facts of the MTA. It is an independent authority chartered under
    New York State Law which has no over site. It has an independent agenda.
    That agenda benefits the MTA, and is not designed to benefit New
    Yorkers. The MTA is not our friend, nor does it respond to our needs,
    and most of all it does not respond to public pressure or scrutiny. It
    borrows money and leaves the bills for the taxpayer and straphangers. It
    subsidizes suburban growth, and leaves the bill for the inner city
    working class. It buys glitzy toys, like underground radio systems, a
    connection for the LIRR to Grand Central Station along with the building
    of a new level at the terminal, it buys a new extension of the 7 train to
    the Javits Center, new cars with digital signage, elevators, and electronic
    billboards, it builds a completely uneeded new station complex at Fulton
    Street to bribe politicians who can’t figure out how to rebuild the WTC,
    but it ignores basic safety and traffic needs like switches and steel rails,
    station maintenance, and subway cars with enough signs to know what
    train your hoping on without needing to look over the platform with the
    train arriving. And then they spend hundreds of millions of dollars to
    preach to us. Don’t run up the escalator, Don’t lean over the platform
    (so then how do we know what train is coming since they have removed
    most of the side car signage), don’t walk between cars (which was really
    useful at stopping over crowding for nearly a hundred years before some
    idiot decided it was too dangerous), pick up your trash, and give your
    seat to a pregnant women.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Yo Safir, go back through a few years of links on my blog on Room Eight and download a few spreadsheets if you want to know on what categories of public services NY’s spending is high.

    NYCT has one of the lowest costs per vehicle mile in the country. The total non-fare cost of transit is high because the transit system is big and past costs have been deferred, not because the transit system is wasteful (at least not in NYC)?

    NY Spending is sky high on:

    Medicaid, particularly for senior citizens and hospitals.

    Schools, outside NYC.

    Police, inside NYC and on Long Island.

    Pensions, because the employees contribute less here than anywhere else, and get to retire sooner with richer deals even as they live longer.

    Debts, because the state has been run by those cashing in and moving out. Not just MTA debts, either.

    That’s where NY’s above average taxes as a share of its residents’ income go. And if you are worried about waste, that’s where to look first.

    Major transit improvements have been made all over the country. There have been fewer here than just about anywhere in recent decades.

    You strike me as someone who wants to screw the future so you can cash in and move out. People like that are wrecking the whole country. You want an argument to let public services to collapse that I can agree with? Here it is. I WANT TO SEPARATE MY MONEY FROM SELFISH PEOPLE LIKE YOU!

  • Larry – is 15.2 Billion Dollars for an LIRR extention worth more than full time and safe rail service on the W and G lines? If the Subway is so cheap to run why does it take 2 years to fix a switch on the Brighton Line at Prospect Park Station? Its not rocket science unless you make it so.

    Ruben

  • “You strike me as someone who wants to screw the future so you can cash in and move out. People like that are wrecking the whole country. You want an argument to let public services to collapse that I can agree with? Here it is. I WANT TO SEPARATE MY MONEY FROM SELFISH PEOPLE LIKE YOU!”

    BTW – your not being to swift about more than the MTA. I’ve been living in Brooklyn and writing about it on the internet probably before you were full sentient as a human being and I’ll likely still be hear after you can’t take NYC anymore and leave for Las Vegas.

    I wrote this in 1996 when you were likely still in Elementary School

    http://www.brooklynonline.com/bkln.news/subway.xhtml

    How to Play Three Card Monte and Win
    The Story of a Subway Con Job
    Glossary 3 Card Monte – a game of chance often played by sidewalk con-artist where 3 cards are placed face down on a surface like a card board box where the object is for the player to try to pick which card is the Ace of Spades. If the Con-Artist lets you bet, it is likely that you lost

    Gov. George Pataki stole 220 million dollars from the MTA. Last year he took our money, which was part of the MTA’s reserve fund, and balanced the NYS budget with it. This was money earned at the MTA at the turnstile. It was money which was earned after he pushed through a 25 cent increase in the subway fare. It was money largely earned by working poor NYC residents, who paid a full 80% plus of the the operating costs of the TA by the fare box. Our suburban neighbors paid about 50% of operating costs for suburban commuter rails.

    So, make no mistake about it, last year, the working poor of New York City suffered a large tax increase to subsidize a state budget which gave Suburban New Yorkers discounted rail service.

    One late night in October this reporter was waiting at the Atlantic Avenue IRT subway station on the southbound side. Long ago the Atlantic Ave. station had 2 extra staircases on the south end of the station. Currently they are locked up with bars. Out of boredom, I walked to the end of the station to see if I could see down the stairs at the relic of a previous generation.

    I couldn’t see anything down the stair, but I noticed 10-15 large garbage bags laid out on the platform behind the fence. As I was ready to walk away, I noticed movement in the front bag 10 feet away from me. I was startled, and froze for a moment. Then I looked closer and saw that there was definitely something moving in the garbage bag. And it was big and noisy. Then from another direction, I saw something else moving. It was a rat, 2 feet long, not including the tail. He stood on hind legs and gazed at me. It decided I was no threat, and then jumped into a hole in one of the bags. Then I noticed another and another.

    Suddenly, it was like dawn breaking over the horizon, as I was able to see 15 or 20 rats behind that fence. They were brash, loud, and everywhere – just a few feet away from my position. It dawned on me that I was not safe standing where I was, and I slowly backed away from the fence, toward the center of the platform.

    I was reminded at that moment, that one of the benefits of the recent fare hike was a cutback in service. There were less cleaning crews, less token booth clerks, and the MTA was experimenting with single man operated trains. The needed capital improvement plans, which looked so promising a decade ago when Bowling Green Station was refurbished, stalled at the Manhattan side of the east river. The promised new stations at Franklin Ave. and Nevins Street are never to be done. And rats had taken over Atlantic Ave. Meanwhile, Christapher Street in Greenwich Village is brand new, and the LIRR is enjoying a city subsidized discount.

    Enter into this picture the Metro Card.

    Every good execution of three card monte needs a slight of hand and a distraction which creates the right kind of confusion in the mind of the victim. The Metro Card was introduced in NYC early this year. The immediate effect of the card was to slow the turnstile down as the mechanical device which took a token was converted to a computer registered device. The new turnstile hesitates before allowing the passenger to pass through. The days of running down the stairs as the train rolls in, throwing a token in the turnstile while in full motion, and running through the stile as the train doors threaten to close, is now as much part of the past as Ebbets Field. Now, the rider has two choices at the turnstile. He either waits for the computer to recognize his payment, which is about 1 second after entering the token, or he jumps the turnstile.

    Since most of us won’t jump the turnstile, waiting is the only option. Multiply this delay by 100,000 riders at Grand Central Station at 5 PM weekdays, and the result is delays at the station which we have already learned to take for granted.

    The Metro Card slows things down even further as a certain percentage of sweeps of the card fail, causing the rider to double or triple swipe. The MTA has accomplished what the Department of transportation has been trying to do for a generation. They have effectively ended the “Rush” in “Rush Hour”.

    The people of New York would have nothing to do with the Metro Cards. They were rejected them outright. So, in a desperate attempt to get the riding public to accept the Metro Card, The MTA offered Metro Gold – and a free Bus to Subway transfer. As a result of the free transfer, about 40% of the TA ridership gave the Metro Cards a chance. And some benefit has been seen for a few. But in the face of a 25 cent raise in the fare, steep cutbacks in service, the effective end of the Capital Improvement program, and the loss of $220,000,000 dollar to the State general fund, New Yorkers are way behind in the Subway fare game.

    Now, facing another huge surplus in the MTA budget, our very experienced City Council President, and relentless Mayor pressed the Governor to give New Yorkers a 12 for 10 fare break. This would NOT be the same as rolling the fare back to $1.25, but it would at least give working New Yorkers the same weekly commuting cost as before the fare hike and what has become know as “The Great Train Robbery”.

    The real benefit of the Metro Card to the MTA is the ease in which it will be able to raise fares in the future, and the hopeful elimination of token booth clerks, as people will be able to purchase Metro Cards from newsstands and for large quantities. It is common sense that the cost of circulating all those temporary Metro Cards will be more expensive than issuing tokens which outlive the fare price they were issued for. This is the same cost saving that the Federal Government hopes to reap by changing the paper dollar bill for a dollar coin. The coins, lasting longer, end up being cheaper. Of course, if the MTA keeps raising the fare every year, this savings is entirely lost. It ends up being cheaper to just not issue tokens at all, and issue only cheap Metro Cards. Then, when the fare is raised, the MTA has no front end cost of changing tokens. They just change the rate of reduction on the cards.

    In light of this, the new proposal by the Governor for discount fare cards becomes exposed as a slight of hand. The Governor has set in motion the president that the fare can go up and down at whim with no consideration for the rider.

    This is the Governors current plan:

    * $63.00 monthly passes:

    At current fare prices a daily commuter pays $60.00 a month for commuting IF he is never sick and there are no holidays that month. In reality, the average commuter pays less than this since there are holidays in most months, and people do take personal days off.

    Also – don’t loose the card or get mugged.
    * $17.00 weekly passes

    Normal weekly fares cost $15.00 a week.

    * $4 daily passes

    Good for street messengers who might take the train 20 times a day delivering packages around Midtown

    * Half Price passes for people over 65.

    Seniors also already get a discounted fare.

    * Express Buses decreased from $4 to $3

    Wealthier upper middle class commuters who use express bus service get a no nonsense fare cut!

    * 11 rides for 10

    There is very little benefit, if any, in this plan by the Governor except for the 11 for 10 plan. The Mayor is correct in his assessment of the situation. We need at minimum a straight – no nonsense 12 for 10 ride plan. Even better, we should shutdown this card game, return to the riding public it’s $220,000,000 dollars, keep the bus to subway transfer, get rid of the Metro Card, reduce the fare back to $1.25 a ride, fund the needed capital improvements, give us back our token booth clerks and station cleaners, and improve service. Then the riders can be happy.

    Now, only the rats at Atlantic Ave. are happy.

  • “I think the above spam-esque comments are exactly what’s wrong with this debate: the opposition is framing it as the MTA’s problem, forgetting that it’s not just the MTA’s problem – it’s also the problem of everyone who rides transit.”

    Its not the MTA’s problem. They could care LESS. The MTA ***IS*** the problem.

  • Speaker Silver also said Thursday that with the stimulus money, the state’s budget would likely grow from the proposed $121 billion to between $125 to $127 billion.

  • “Tolls are a necessary part of any plan to fully and fairly fund mass transit. Everyone – including drivers – benefits from a functioning transit system, so it’s only fair that everyone should contribute to keeping New York on the move.”

    Sounds like a pitch to fund the MTA from the general revenue fund instead of tolling the Brooklyn Bridge. Why not just Toll Flatbush Avenue. Same difference.

  • “In tough times, it is time to invest in transit. If we make our subways, buses and commuter lines better, we are investing in our economy, environment, mobility and our future. Let’s keep New York moving!”

    There was no tolls or fare increases during the Depression

  • Ruben,

    You are really abusing our comments section and you no longer have permission to post here. Go rant on your own blog.

  • mike

    Ruben,

    I know I’m not supposed to feed trolls like yourself, but ESA is projected to cost $8 billion. Regardless of the merits (or lack thereof, actually) of your arguments, please at least get the basic facts correct.

  • Yes, please don’t feed the trolls. By posting multiple messages, some of them very long, even when asked not to, Ruben basically took a big shit in this thread. Do you really want to reward him for this?

  • Aaron Butler

    Sure – anyone who can support the fact that chopping back on
    an unneeded project like the 10 billion dollar Long Island
    Rail Road Extension to Grand Central Station is called a troll
    on this blog. You guys are a joke, but the joke is on all of
    us since in 2 days we are going to get toll hikes instead
    of cut backs in transit projects that nobody in New York
    City wants.

    Enjoy your new subway fares. People like those that run this
    blog are at fault for it.

    Aaron

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Streetsblog Q&A With TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen

|
Last December, John Samuelsen was elected president of TWU Local 100, the union that represents 38,000 subway and bus workers in the New York City region. He assumed the leadership from former president Roger Toussaint at a troubled time for the transit system. With transit tax revenues in free fall and state lawmakers raiding MTA […]

Paterson Abandons Long-Term MTA Financing Effort

|
We’re getting dangerously close to transit Armageddon. Seeking a quick resolution to the MTA funding crisis, Governor Paterson lobbied over the weekend to get a Band-aid fix through the State Senate. The problem is, Paterson’s plan provides no resolution at all. Fundamental details of the proposal are still sketchy, even as the governor pushes for […]

State Sen. Andrew Lanza Defends Stance on MTA Rescue

|
State Senator Andrew Lanza called this afternoon in response to yesterday’s post about his MTA rescue stance. He first took issue with the characterization of Senate Republicans as "refusing to budge" on a transit funding plan, saying that his conference has effectively been shut out of the process. "If they wanted to come forward with […]

No, the MTA Can’t Afford Cuomo’s Transit Raids

|
I think most transit riders would laugh — cynically — at the idea that the MTA has more than enough funds to meet its needs. But this is exactly what the MTA’s chairman Tom Prendergast said when he learned that the state would be diverting $30 million from the MTA’s funding stream to balance the […]

Industry and Insiders Dominate Cuomo’s Transpo Transition Team

|
Andrew Cuomo named his transportation transition team and for transportation reformers, there’s not a lot to celebrate. The list has no voices from the advocacy community and is dominated by private-sector business leaders. That’s an unfortunate step backwards from Eliot Spitzer’s team four years ago, which was stacked full of progressive transportation advocates, MTA reformers […]