Where Does the Working Families Party Stand on MTA Rescue?

bus_boarding.jpgMillions of New York City bus riders are counting on an MTA rescue plan to maintain service and hold fares down.

Last week, some of the biggest unions in New York came out in favor of the Ravitch Commission’s MTA rescue plan, including the bridge tolls that a handful of state senators refuse to support. So, what is the stance of the Working Families Party, which is closely aligned with labor? Founded in 1998, the WFP is a growing force in city and state politics. Its endorsement, and the ballot line that comes with it, has become a sought-after electoral commodity. In the current round of state budget talks, the party is widely credited for advancing higher taxes on wealthy New Yorkers, now viewed as all but inevitable.

A plan to save transit service and spare New Yorkers the burden of drastically higher fares would seem to match the Working Families Party agenda perfectly. The party has a public transportation plank, and has touted a halt the hike website in tandem with the Straphangers Campaign when higher fares loom. The car commuters who would pay bridge tolls earn far more, on average, than the transit riding majority. But on the question of the Ravitch Plan, the party has been mum in public.

"We haven’t taken a pro position on the Ravitch Plan itself," said WFP spokesman Dan Levitan. "We haven’t had the bandwidth to do a public campaign around this, since we’ve been fighting so hard on the general budget. We’ve been trying to defend the Silver/Paterson [transit funding] compromise in the Senate."

In the last election, three of the key players in the Senate hold-out were endorsed by the party: Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, Fare Hike Four member Hiram Monserrate (indicted on six counts today for assaulting his girlfriend), and Kevin Parker, a bridge toll opponent whose Brooklyn constituents face a slew of service cuts [PDF]. Will the Working Families Party ballot line still be available to these legislators if doomsday comes to pass?

  • Glenn

    Aside from a change in the minimum wage, I couldn’t think of a bigger impact on the average “working” family in NYC than a regressive 20% hike in transit fares.

    Really, can someone else name another?

  • beng722

    finally, an opportunity for WFP to use their power. if they do not endorse East River tolls then they’ve lost all street cred.

  • Glenn — You asked, What’s more regressive than a 20% fare hike? I’ll answer, The 25% fare hike in the MTA’s doomsday scenario (score one for the math team).

    Seriously, the WFP’s blandishments are pure fig leaf. Limited bandwidth be damned, the party has done nada. As was explained to me last fall, when I tried to get the WFP to take a good look at the Kheel Plan, “we only activate when we can be out in front.”

    From the vanguard to the dustbin, in the flick of a fare hike.

  • mfs

    Great point in the article, but Komanoff & beng–sheesh! Just because they don’t look at your idea or support a specific proposal, you write them off? If it’s a millionaires tax that saves subway & bus service or a bridge toll, does it really matter?

  • Ian Turner

    Glenn,

    The following are far worse than an extra $20 a month for working families, and both have happened in the last 5-10 years:
    – A 20% increase in rent cost (this is the average increase in the last 5 years, by the way).
    – A 20% increase in food cost (happens all the time)

    Seriously, is it a transportation system or is it a welfare system? We should charge whatever fare is required to keep the system running, and if that leaves some people unable to afford transportation, then they should be exempted through a transit stamp system.

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