Today’s Headlines

  • Doomsday Approaches: MTA Finance Committee Approves Fare Hike (NYT, News, NBC, Post, NY1)
  • EPA Prepares to Regulate Greenhouse Gases (NYT)
  • Driving Declined in January for 14th Straight Month (Infrastructurist)
  • World’s Cheapest Car Goes on Sale in India; Maker Eyes U.S. Market (NYT, Reuters)
  • Scenes From the Statehouse on the Eve of MTA Deadline (Politicker)
  • City Room Asks Readers How They’ll Cope With Higher Fares
  • Newsday Tells Paterson to Give Up on Ravitch Plan… Because of the Payroll Tax
  • Pataki-Era Borrowing Binge Set Up MTA’s Current Debt Bomb (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Pedestrians and Cyclists Contest Leftover Space on Pulaski Bridge (News)
  • Ikea Shuttle Buses Rack Up Safety Violations (News)
  • Why Don’t Papers Describe Traffic Deaths Like Other Killings? (GGW via Streetsblog.net)
  • Larry Littlefield

    Looks like another great day for senior citizens who don’t care about their kids, and those whose kids have moved away, in Albany.

    I had a mental convergence of two things I think about while riding in today.

    What are all those “supluses” the MTA had while its debts and unfunded retirement obligations were going up every year like?

    They were like the “savings” people thought they had because they hadn’t yet borrowed right up to the limit on their credit cards, and housing prices had gone up since the last time they refinanced and spent the proceeds!

    Younger generations will pay for both. Bicycles — because it’s all they’ll be able to afford, and they won’t be getting much health care.

  • Glenn

    Let’s organize a rider’s strike to protest the fares the day they go into effect. Everyone take alternate means to work, including cars.

  • Lee

    Yeah, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in India… believe me, once that car takes off in India, everyone else can kiss their cheap gas goodbye.

  • Glenn

    This MTA situation is a great opportunity for Republicans to present a bold alternative or put their votes behind the Ravitch commission proposal. Imagine thousands of poor people in the outerboroughs thanking Dean Skelos for saving the two dollar fare. Smith would get none of the credit and his leadership would soon come to an end.

    A good article about the vaccum of leadership in the NY State Democratic party.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/24/nyregion/24democrats.html?_r=1

  • “Alternate means, including cars”? I don’t know anyone in NYC crazy enough to own a car. Not having a bike, there’s no way I could get to work without the subway. This would end up being more like “A Day Without Straphangers.”

    Oh and your daily schadenfreude:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/bronx/2009/03/23/2009-03-23_diazes_may_not_be_off_investigation_hook.html

    So that makes fully half the Fare Hike Four under indictment or investigation.

  • Re. the Ikea shuttle, if you’re concerned about safety you can take the B61 instead. It’s slow, but it’ll get you there.

  • The Newsday editorial is breathtakingly blinkered: “In the final analysis, some service cuts may be inevitable.” Oh, and the paper doesn’t like the notion of “pumping more money into this big bureaucracy.” Are the trolls who post here now writing editorials for Newsday?

    The suburban newspaper thinks NYC residents should make do with less — but we should continue to provide free East River crossings and street access for its readers. Bring back the commuter tax.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It’s infuriating for anyone to call the MTA inefficient. Could it be more efficient? Sure.

    But look at where New York’s government spending and staffing are sky high by national standards, relative to income and population, if you want to find inefficiency. Medicaid, especially hospitals and services for seniors, and public schools in the portion of the state outside New York City.

    Those, however, are powerful interests. Look at all the advertizements flaming Paterson when he tried to reign in the non-profiteers, for example. And the New York State Association of School Boards is complaining about the payroll tax? Please. Everyone should be complaining about them.

    I’m not just talking. I know more about how NY’s revenues, expenditures and pay compare with other parts of the country than anyone else in the state, just because I bother to compile the data and no one else does.

    Local government employment and pay:

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/2007_census_of_governments_local_government_employment_and_payroll_data.html

    Revenues and expenditures:

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/census_fy_2006_public_finance_data_the_spreadsheets.html

    Analyzed:

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/new_york_s_state_and_local_taxes_how_and_by_whom_are_you_getting_robbed.html

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/new_york_s_local_government_spending_winners_and_losers.html

    Average transit costs:

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/comparative_transit_costs_for_2006.html

    I compile this data from publicly available databases. Anyone could know as much as I do, and they have plenty of people working for the state legislature capable of producing the same spreadsheets I do. They don’t know because they don’t care and don’t want to know. Go ahead. Read the posts. Download the spreadsheets. Print the tables. That’s the truth.

  • t

    I think the commuter tax was ruled unconstitutional, but the spirit behind it needs to be rethought. If you come into this city and take advantage of its streets, bridges, and other infrastructure, you ought to pay your share.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    re: Pulaski Bridge story–Julie Lawrence is a member of Brooklyn CB1, so I guess we have one community board member’s opinion on pedestrian safety. “Ride on!,” self-first cyclists!

  • Mike

    Jeffrey: Huh? It’s perfectly safe to bike over this bridge, as long as you ride slowly and yield to pedestrians. There’s no indication that Julie is doing anything but that.

  • t: “I think the commuter tax was ruled unconstitutional…” Yes, prior to that, it was repealed by the state legislature for people living in the suburbs of New York. NYC sued, whereupon the state courts ruled the tax unconstitutional. That blew a big hole in the city’s finances, the ramifications of which persist today. See source.

    As t pointed out eloquently, the spirit behind the commuter tax needs to be rethought. I guess that’s why Ravitch came up with the payroll tax. I’m of two minds about it — I fear my out-of-state employer may look at a sudden payroll cost increase and give my job to someone elsewhere in the country. But I’ve also castigating the electeds who opposed the Ravitch plan because it’s probably as good a solution as we’re going to get.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Let’s clarify. New York City had a commuter tax for all commuters into NYC. The state legislature repealed the tax, but only for New York State residents, claiming NYC would lose less revenue because residents of NJ and CT would still have to pay. Residents of NJ and CT sued, and the whole tax was thrown out as discriminating against them.

    Residents of NJ and CT are still required to pay massive NY State income taxes when they commute into NYC. Adding up the $, it’s pretty clear those state dollars are spent outside NYC.

  • Thank you, Larry.

  • ms nomer

    Mike: It might be perfectly safe to bike over the Pulaski Bridge, and there are numerous courteous cyclists who use it, but in fact biking is prohibited on the bridge. Cyclists are supposed to dismount and walk their bikes over. We can argue about the practicality of that of course, but the point is that it’s officially a pedestrian crossing. Clearly uses and needs have changed and TA volunteers are right to raise awareness and ask for a redesign that reflects cyclists’ and walkers’ heavy presence on the bridge. Till then, anyone biking over the Pulaski should realize that they’re on pedestrian turf, period.

  • Jaywalker

    re: Pulaski

    Again, fighting over scraps. C’mon, people. Common sense. Having used this bridge for recreational biking, I’ll only say that w/ the limited space, this is NOT a speedway. I don’t dismount either. Nor do I use those obnoxious bells. Just strategically (and with caution) navigate as conditions merit. It’s not rocket science!

    Giving over a car lane for a dedicated bike lane would be great, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • James

    Have any of you checked out the comments left in the NYT article on the fare hike? The overwhelming sentiment is anti-MTA, rather than anti-State Senate. I saw “audit their books!” more time than I can count. There’s clearly been a failure in the messaging when it comes to this issue on the part of those of us who want to see the East & Harlem River tolls enacted.

  • oscarfrye

    but don’t you think the MTA has a poor reputation for inefficient money management?…I think after all these “bailouts” people are tired of hearing “throw money at the problem” when they experience/witness waste & inefficiency.

    Even if the wast accounts for a small fraction of the budget shortfall, the perception sticks in riders mind’s…

  • NYC transit rider

    Yeah, I’d much rather pay $5 for every ride than see any more subsidies thrown at the wasteful, inefficient MTA!

  • Anne M.H.

    Walker, you are the one who is breathtakingly blinkered. You think that most of Long Island wants to pay a payroll tax for getting EXACTLY ZERO SERVICE from the MTA? When was the last time you hopped a bus/train/subway on the North Fork? The editorial was clearly talking about service cuts in part of Long Island, not in NYC. Stupid, stupid, city-centric, can’t-see-past-my-latte type of thinking.

  • I can see over my regular, home brewed coffee. I see that the rugged North Fork has its share of Starbucks franchises, if not buses; can you see past your frappuccino? And more importantly, your need to stereotype?

  • Anne, when Long Island residents get EXACTLY ZERO JOBS from New York City, get back to me then. As far as I’m concerned, you’re just a parasite with a bad attitude.

  • Anne M.H.

    Mark, perhaps you work for the Partnership for New York City or one of its member companies. That is the only business organization that has endorsed the payroll tax, because they represent some of the biggest businesses in the world. AIG for example. When Hank Greenberg was indicted, his son was a co-chairman of the Partnership. Other groups — the Long Island Association, the Business Council of New York State, the NY chapter of the Federation for Independent Business — all realize that a payroll tax at this time would kill small businesses, just knock them down one after another. Long Island is mostly small business. Let’s just take a wrecking ball to all the delis and barber shops, shall we? Of course the Partnership doesn’t mind taxing its own — its employees actually use the MTA.

  • Anne, I work for a company based outside New York, though I live and work in New York. Though it is a large company, I don’t believe it is a member of the partnership. But don’t let that inhibit your rich and varied fantasy life.

    Moreover, I don’t believe the payroll tax is a perfect solution, and I share your concern that it would place a burden on businesses — I don’t want my company being given an incentive to cut me loose and employ someone who lives elsewhere in the country. I would much prefer to see the reinstatement of the commuter tax, which would address the uneven tax burden among those who consume city services, like the many Long Islanders who commute into Manhattan every day and get free police protection, free fire protection, free sanitation service, etc.

    However, as imperfect as it is, I’d rather see a payroll tax than watch the city’s economy wither, which will certainly happen if transit service cuts interfere with people getting to their jobs. Without subways, the LIRR, and other people movers, the city’s central business district would begin to lose its luster, and ultimately wither, costing jobs for city and suburban residents alike.

    Your contention that the payroll tax will destroy small business on Long Island fails to account for the fact that Long Island would have only a tiny fraction of its current population — and businesses, and customers for those businesses — if it were located upstate instead of adjacent to New York City.

    Whether you admit it or not, Long Islanders receive huge benefits from proximity to the city. To name but one, many residents of Nassau and Suffolk are employees of the City of New York. Many others are pensioners of the City of New York. Add those who get public sector paychecks to those who get private sector paychecks and you have quite a few people directly dependent on the city’s well being. If they suffer, they have less money to patronize your local businesses, and then the businesses suffer.

    It is hypocritical and pathologically selfish for Long Island residents like yourself to want to reap the benefits of proximity to New York City while avoiding the responsibilities. Your are part of a one of the greatest metro areas in the world. Grow up and act like it.

  • Anne M.H.

    I agree that we receive a lot of benefits by proximity to NYC. But here are the taxes the MTA gets now: mortgage tax revenue, station maintenance payments, a slight percentage of sales tax, a petroleum business tax and a phone bill surcharge. Where will it ever end? There is no incentive for the MTA to hold down costs, they just keep trying to charge all NYers more.

    The W and Z lines are not the only services at risk. The MTA is targeting Long Island Bus services for cuts, as well as reducing the frequency of trains on LIRR lines. I do think we could live with fewer LIRR trains. The bus service, I would like to save because it serves the poorest people. Not only will the MTA hike bus fares to $3.50, they will eliminate free transfers.

    So much for your curiosity, Mark, about anything east of the East River.

  • Ian Turner

    Anne,

    As Larry pointed out in comment #8 above, the MTA is actually quite efficient by international standards. Could it run better? Sure, but that’s true of any organization, public or private. Boondoggles aside, high MTA costs are simply not the problem in this situation.

  • Anne, your implication notwithstanding, I grew up west of the Hudson River, and I lived in the suburbs for two decades before I chose to live in the city. When you say things like “I do think we could live with fewer LIRR trains,” it’s legitimate to wonder if you’re even on speaking terms with anyone who commutes to (and is dependent on) the city.

  • Anne M.H.

    I commuted into the city on the LIRR for 5 years. And I disagree, I do think that MTA spending is the problem.