Today’s Headlines

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hammond: “It was almost a year ago that the MTA first raised an alarm about its looming fiscal crisis, due largely to economic forces out of its control…No one can claim to be caught by surprise.”

    New York Times October 25, 2004:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C06E2D7163DF936A15753C1A9629C8B63&sec=&spon=&&scp=9&sq=mta%20capital%20plan%202004%20lapp&st=cse

    “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.”

    “What is happening is what people predicted back in ’99, 2000, which is that the capital plan debts put tremendous pressure on the operating budget,” said Katherine N. Lapp, the executive director.”

    “In 1995, the transit authority had $7.5 billion in debts that it was expected to repay by itself, with fares and tolls. Today, that figure is more than $14 billion, and the agency projects that the total will approach $20 billion by 2008. In that period, it also predicts deficits rising to more than $1 billion a year.”

    Then they did it again for the 2005 to 2009 plan, and considered themselves heroes for “pulling the MTA back from the abyss. And now they have done it yet again. Each time the hole gets bigger, the promises get smaller, the taxes and fees go higher.

    And what did future generations get for all that debt. The Second Avenue Subway? East Side Access? The N train to LaGuardia? Metro North to Penn? A connection from DeKalb to the Rutgers tunnel to protect against another Manhattan Bridge outage (they are painting that bridge routinely now to stop corrosion, aren’t they?)

    No. Five years of ongoing normal replacement (maintenance, really) planned, less than five years done due to cost over-runs. Fare discounts — in the past. A bunch of studies, plans and consulting contracts. And some holes in the ground that “realistic” people will soon say have to be filled in.

    And before you blame the drivers, realize that the state’s road and bridge trust fund pulled the same trick. The Tappan Zee is rotting and despite decades of toll collection there is no money to replace it. Etc.

    Not only will all the MTA taxes we already have go to past debts, most of the additional money will also go to past debts, which is what they mean by the “operating budget.” Which has less and less to do with operating.

  • Larry Littlefield

    From the Times article:

    “New York has gone through a profound shift in how transit is paid for — away from government and onto the riders — a change that was a stated, early policy of Gov. George E. Pataki and his administration, and also pursued by other politicians. The shift began in the early 1990’s and grew, step by step, culminating in 2000 with the capital program and voters’ rejection of a transportation bond act.”

    But, with the fare collapsing relative to inflation (and even in nominal dollars) given all the discounts, the riders didn’t pay either. They also cut off support. And then there was the 2000 pension enhancement that the TWU got a piece of, and the strike for 20/50.

    This is the “everybody wins” game of chicken that has gone on, associated with rising rhetoric on all parts “against the MTA” and its “hidden billions.” Where are those hidden billions now?

  • Who cares? They’re all patting themselves on the back for “keeping the fare down” & counting votes in their heads.

  • Car Free Nation

    Re: Brooklyn Dad Arrested.
    This morning, on the Bowery, the police were ticketing cyclists who made the turn from Irvington. I would have been ticketed, had I not been stuck behind all the cars who do this crazy back-up dance after the street cleaner comes through. So while the cyclist are being ticketed, 8 cars are illegally backing up into illegal parking spots (at least at that time of day). Because these spots are available free, there are not enough delivery spots, so the strip of Bowery where the cyclists were getting ticketed is full of double parked trucks and delivery vans. It just doesn’t seem fair.

  • away from government and onto the riders

    Strange phrasing. Either way, the riders pay. Except when they don’t.

  • Peter Flint

    Re: Brooklyn Dad arrested:

    Ride a bicycle on the sidewalk and it’s “Yer goin’ downtown buddy.”

    Drive on the sidewalk and run over children…. NO PROBLEM!

  • Anon

    Sadly the Brooklyn Dad has served more time than other offenders who have killed their victims.

  • So we have our transit bailout. Now we get to talk about the roads bailout, the police bailout, the fire bailout, the schools bailout, the sanitation bailout, the health bailout…. Oh wait a minute, those things are never discussed as bailouts, are they? They’re just considered normal functions of government with a quiet appropriations process (well, quiet relative to the MTA). Only when we talk about transit do we use the word bailout, which summons queasy images of AIG and the Bank of America, making riders skulk away feeling dirty, as if we were doing something irresponsible by living car-free or car-light lives.

  • fdr

    You do not have the Daily News article on the death of Stephen Hoadnett, “after colliding with a truck” in Queens.
    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2009/05/07/2009-05-07_british_tourist_in_ny_for_charity_dies_in_queens_bicycle_accident.html

  • “…when he collided with a 10-wheeler truck.”

    The article quotes no eyewitnesses saying that Mr. Hoadnett, may he rest in peace, ran into the truck, rather than vice versa. Sure, it may have happened that way, but maybe not, too.

  • The otherwise unusual word ‘criminality’ sure gets a workout as the thing that is not at all suspected by police in fatal vehicular crashes. How about a little consideration for ‘negligence’, when someone’s life is ended?

  • Mark, I think they call those other things a “stimulus” in this day and age.

  • Rhywun

    Or a “TARP”, under which to hide.