Today’s Headlines

  • Doomsday Arrives: Worst Service Cuts Since 70s Set to Take Effect (NYT, News, Post, NY1)
  • Michael Daly: Kruger, Espada, and Diaz Betrayed New York City (News)
  • Albany Has About a Month to Undo the Damage (News, MTR)
  • Post to Shelly: Force the Issue, Pass a One-House MTA Rescue Package
  • Brodsky, Perkins Intro ‘MTA Reform’ Bill (Newsday)
  • State Sen. Dilan’s Transit Funding Idea: Re-Introduce the Commuter Tax (Politicker)
  • Post Reporter Takes ‘Thrilling’ Run Though Manhattan Streets in Novelty Electric Car
  • …And Here’s Another Reminder That Electric Cars Can’t Cure the Ills of Automobility (NYer)
  • Gehry Retracts Comment That Atlantic Yards Is Dead (Bklyn Paper)
  • In Time for Tax Season: A Guide to the Bike Commuter Benefit (WashCycle via Streetsblog.net)
  • Larry Littlefield

    So who here agrees that the right thing to do is shut down the capital program, not build the SAS and other projects, end normal replacement of aging capital equipment…and scale back the fare increases and service cuts. Using borrowed money is needed.

    That, my friends, is the end game. That is what this is to get people to accept. That’s what would put the MTA “in its place.”

    That is what the Gang of Four has proposed. And that is what the Straphangers, who always look to five years from now as something to be happy with today, would be pleased with. That’s that the

    If you are protesting “doomsday,” you’re with them. Me, I’d rather have this “doomday” than a long term system collapse. In fact, I’d rather no attempt to remedy the operating budget gap and a prolonged system shutdown than a long term system collapse.

  • Glenn

    Larry, I think you bring a lot to the table, but Nihilism is a one way street to a dead end. Don’t take their bait.

    The fare hike four and legislators like them just don’t seem to care if the system collapses around them, as long as they get to blame someone else.

    I think the time has come for Paterson to reach across Malcom Smith and ask Dean Skelos to help him really govern. It’s his only choice at this point. I think Liz Krueger would be a suitable and capable majority leader if she could get votes on both sides and cut out the Nihilistic Fare Hike Four.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I think the time has come for Paterson to reach across Malcom Smith and ask Dean Skelos to help him really govern.”

    Keep East Side Access, but cancel the SAS and end signal replacement on the subway? If your talking Skelos, that’s what you are talking about.

    Am I nuts? Consider this.

    In 1995-96, the last time the recession was this bad, the deal was Local 1199 kept their money but NYC’s share of state school aid (already lower than its share of state students, even though those students were needier) was slashed. Aid to the city was cut to 29% of the total with 37% of the students.

    The UFT’s part of the deal was an early retirement incentive.

    The result was absolutely devasting to the schools (which had never really recovered from the 1970s). Friends of ours (our kids were just entering schools) left the city, others spent much of the next decade fighting to send their kids to the limited number of “special deal” schools that worked, while we sent our kids to Catholic School.

    Oh, and state funding for the MTA was slashed.

    Most of the players who passed that deal (without a single not vote) are still around. Silver was in charge. Paterson a State Senator. And Skelos? He probably still feels cheated that the city’s state school aid was not cut more, and aid for the rest of the state was not increased more.

    I expect something of a repeat for the schools, but not until things get a little worse, perhaps November 2010 after Election Day. This time the UFT already has 25/55 permanently, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be given something more as part of the deal.

    “Nihilism” is merely an expectation that with the same people backed by the same interests in charge, you get the same results. After a 20 year battle, I believe that conclusion has been beaten into me.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Oh, and one more thing, the new perspective is adaptation, not nihilism. I’m on a bicycle now.

    And I understand that if I want to contribute to the welfare of other people, sending money through Albany, Washington or (to a lesser extent) City Hall is NOT going to get it done.

  • vnm

    Three cheers for Michael Daly. Truly terrific piece do appear in the MSM from time to time.

  • Teachers retire at 55?? I’m speechless.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Interesting side note on Skelos and East Side Access. He has supported it over the years but opposed Main Line Third Track that is absolutely necessary to a useful ESA program and critical to greater capacity utilization on LIRR, a critical aspect of its inefficiency relative to Metro North. Also mainline third track is an issue for Queens as reverse commute is stifled without it. By not having to take a position now and passing on the opportunity to advance a funded capital program Dean Skelos is avoiding decision making. That, apparently, is part of the LI Republican strategy back to Senate majority.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Teachers retire at 55?? I’m speechless.”

    It was 62 little more than a year ago. The last bill Spitzer signed before Client 9. It included higher pension payments (lower take home pay) and age 57 for FUTURE TEACHERS.

    Does this surprise you? Here is what surprised me.

    In Michigan, a state with a 12.0% unemployment rate, with the Detroit metro area losing jobs every year since 2000, with the City of Detroit and many other municiaplities facing bankruptcy, a bill to provide a big pension increase for teachers about to retire — at a cost of $4 billion — almost passed.

    http://www.freep.com/article/20090326/NEWS15/903260368/Plan+to+boost+some+Michigan+teacher+pensions+dies

    “The idea was declared dead Wednesday in the Senate by the Michigan Education Association, which authored the plan as a cost-saver that would open up jobs for thousands of new, younger teachers — and enhance its older members’ pensions.”

    “Senate Education Committee Chairman Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, shelved the proposal, which a study found would cost up to $4 billion over 30 years to boost pension checks for up to 29,000 eligible school employees. Kuipers had supported the MEA plan but could not be reached for comment Wednesday.”

    The younger employees would get lower wages and benefits. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, those hired since 1997 don’t even get pensions in Michigan, just 401Ks.

    The same deal over and over again, on every issue, in every place.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Opposed Main Line Third Track.”

    Right. They don’t want the less well off who work in stores and services in Nassau to live there, but don’t want to make it easier for them to commute from Queens either. Nor do they want them to drive, because that causes more traffic congestion for the locals.

    Skelos would probably prefer that they crawl both ways.

  • > In fact, if I’m not mistaken, those hired since 1997 don’t even get pensions
    > in Michigan, just 401Ks.

    We need to do that here (without the generational warfare, that is). Of course, Weingarten’s head would explode.

    But the simple fact is, we cannot afford to be so generous. And man, I already loathed Spitzer, and I didn’t even know about that giveaway. But the public just doesn’t care.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “But the simple fact is, we cannot afford to be so generous.”

    If we can’t afford to do it for everyone 20 years from now, we can’t afford to do it for anyone today. But we will.

    Cutting benefits for future employees just frees up money for those cashing in and moving out, sometimes with a respectable time separation, sometimes as part of the same deal.

    What was the most massive increase in public spending in recent years? Universal health care like other developed countries have? Nope, an expansion of Medicare benefits for those who already get them. Followed a plan, now being developed, to reduce Medicare benefits in the future.

    Get the picture? The massive MTA debt and de-funding of infrastructure fits right in.

  • That’s an extremely interesting analysis by the New Yorker! However, I wish they would have taken it farther.

    The article is right in that increasing fuel efficiency affects driving in a similar way as declining gas prices.

    But, it’s not a simple linear relationship. There is a large chunk of driving that people are going to do regardless, and gas prices affect marginal trips (for example, someone has to go to work everyday, but maybe they’ll cut out some errands).

    Here is where there is a benefit to increasing fuel efficiency: Lets say prices are at the point where drivers have already cut out most of their discretionary driving (in other words, inelastic demand for driving). These changes in elasticity however don’t apply to changes in fuel efficiency. In an environment with inelastic demand, increases in fuel efficiency will always be good, since you’ll lower emissions and the resulting lower price of driving will not have that much of an effect on behavior.

    The amount someone drives is also not only a function of gas prices, but a function of preferences. Preferences can change. For example, if better public transit alternatives are made available, people will move away from driving without any change in prices.

    So, this means that the decision of whether to invest in hybrid technology or public transit can be based off of how people are responding to gas prices. This leads to the weird result that someone like me, who would rather see investment in public transit than hybrid cars, would want gas prices to remain low! If prices remain low, demand changes a lot with changing gas prices, and increased fuel efficiency wouldn’t have that much of an environmental effect.

  • Ashcan Sam

    David Owen, who wrote the NYer piece in question, also wrote a very good article for them in 2004 called
    “Green Manhattan” (http://www.greenbelt.org/downloads/resources/newswire/newswire_11_04GreenManhattan.pdf).

    The latest issue of the NYer notes that he has a book based on that coming out later this year called _Green Metropolis_

  • ESP

    It’s not the fare hikes that bother me as much as the service cuts. Yes, it most definitely sucks to pay more, but the bigger threat to society is the increase of locations and times in this region that will unfortunately become more car-dependent. Do we really want to incentivize drivers late at night, when it feels like nearly everybody is drunk? Do we really want to isolate affordable yet distant communities from all but the outlying job centers?

  • Ian Turner

    Charley,

    The last oil shock demonstrated that people’s oil consumption is a lot more elastic than anyone had predicted. Many companies moved from an 8×5 work week to a 10×4; a lot of people started telecommuting occasionally; people swapped gas guzzlers for energy efficient vehicles; and long-distance road trips were changed to more regional itineraries or larger groups. There is a lot of evidence that in the 1-2 year time frame, oil consumption is fairly responsive to price.

  • Ian,

    You’re right about those changes in commutes. Even during this spike, you had anecdotal evidence of these sorts of changes occurring.

    I also didn’t mean to say that people won’t change their commute at all, and didn’t mean to draw a line saying that beyond a certain point, people won’t change their behavior, and that oil consumption isn’t elastic.

    I do however think that as prices go up elasticity would go down, even if it’s by a little bit. I mainly found it interesting that something like elasticity can come into play when making a policy decision like this!