Today’s Headlines

  • Cuomo Will Conduct National Search For MTA Job, May Have More Luck Looking Internally (WSJ)
  • With Future of MTA Unclear, Bloomberg Calls on Cuomo to Appoint Strong Replacement (Post)
  • Pete Donohue, Nicole Gelinas Agree: Walder Doesn’t Deserve Praise For Quitting (News, Post)
  • Assm. Bill Colton: Gene Russianoff for MTA Chief (News)
  • Lee Zeldin: Walder Replacement Must Be Budget-Cutter, Because I Will Impoverish the MTA (Post)
  • Silver Urges Cuomo to Sign Taxi Bill; Bloomberg Expects Him To (News)
  • Moynihan Station Retail Deal in Doubt as Developers Struggle to Meet Deadline (WSJ)
  • Queens Driver Flees on Foot After Hitting Car and Killing Passenger (News)
  • Crash Sends Livery Cab Onto Sidewalk, Pinning Dad With Stroller Against Store (Post)
  • Police Union Officer Ensnared in Tix Fix Scandal (Post)
  • The Times Takes A Look Back at Park Avenue Tunnel Through History

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Ozone Parker

    Did council member Eric Ulrich tell the hit-and-run driver in Queens to “get a life,” or does he only do that to people who complain about dangerous streets?

  • moocow

    So, a Dodge Charger will flip end for end and slide for 150 feet on it’s roof, when going no more than 30 mph? Or is there some part of this equation that is incorrect?

  • State Senator Lee Zeldin’s op-ed in the NY Post is insulting. He still picks on the MTA for waste and inefficiencies, that it lacks credibility because of cutting services… when he knows full well, he’s the one who has been cutting it’s budget again and again and again. The few ideas he mentions from Comptroller audits simply tap into millions, while the MTA capital plan is NINE billion in the red, even after Jay Walder’s 2 billion dollar savings. With legislature like that, my hope for the MTA is not high at all.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The most important criteria for the next MTA head is anger, and a willingness to tell everyone to go to hell.

    Riders:  your far cuts in the 1990s and early 2000s led to soaring debts and wrecked the system.  Those “hidden billions” asserted by the Straphangers were a fraud.

    Labor:  Your unfunded retroactive pension enhancements and large wage increases compared with everyone else in recession led to the service cuts and layoffs you complain about.  You screwed the riders.  And you went on strike for a 20/50 pension plan, a declaration of war on your riders almost all of whom have no pension at all.

    Contractors:  your soaring costs and delays contributed to the bankruptcy of the capital plan, and were and are a total ripoff.

    Politicians:  your debts have not only wrecked the future of mass transit, but also the state’s road system, old age benefits for younger generations, education, and everyone else.  The whiny generation you represent has left those coming after worse off.

    And, he or she will have to be willing to say “game over, we’re out of money, and we’re shutting down!”  Wait a month or two.  Then perhaps everyone will realize they can no longer feed off the carcass by trying to out whine someone else.

  • Jeff

    Based on all recent media coverage on the lawfulness of users of various modes of transportation, yes, you are absolutely correct:  It seems quite impossible that this vehicle could have been traveling in excess of 30 MPH.

  • Dan

    Uhh…ok Mr. Bill Colton. Thankfully Gene is smart enough to know when not to say yes…

  • Every time Lee Zeldin opens his mouth — which is often these days — I’m repeatedly shocked that a majority of voters decided he was a good idea. 

  • Every time Lee Zeldin opens his mouth — which is often these days — I’m repeatedly shocked that a majority of voters decided he was a good idea. 

  • carma

    i believe in a strong mass transit. but with the MTA.  i think the only way going forward is to declare bankruptcy and start over again fresh.

    what a pitiful mess NYS has created.  nyc being the innovators of the subway literally let this train roll off the tracks.  walder was given the job from hell.  it will be VERY difficult to replace in my opinion the best guy for the job. 

  • carma

    you would think that a dodge charger with a much lower center of gravity than most SUV’s would never flip..  something else IS missing.

  • carma

    you would think that a dodge charger with a much lower center of gravity than most SUV’s would never flip..  something else IS missing.

  • Anonymous

    I used to think the an MTA bankruptcy was not an option, but I’m beginning to think it may actually be the best of a bad set of choices.

    I would be very curious if anyone has access or can point me to info on the MTA’s current debt structure.

    * How much debt is collateralized by MTA assets, and what are the claims?
    * Is any of the MTA debt carrying a guarantee or backstop from NYS, NYC, or any other agency or municipality?
    * How much straight unsecured debt is there, and what does the term structure look like?
    * Is there any sub debt, and if so how much?

    Also, I’m assuming these would all be tax-free municipal obligations.

    Depending on what this looks like, it may be possible to force bondholders to accept a fairly aggressive restructuring.  Given the high quality of the revenue side this could very significantly reduce the amount required for annual debt service.

    Of course, the new MTA probably couldn’t go back to the capital markets for at least a couple years, but that may actually be a good thing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Perhaps is they wait a few months for the bankruptcy of the United States of America and everyone in it, they could just kind of roll it in.  Had that chance in 2008.  It was bailed out at great cost, leaving us — where we are.

  • Joe R.

    Agreed with everything except the first point.  I don’t recall the MTA EVER lowering the fare. It went from $1 to $1.15 in 1990, to $1.25 in 1992, $1.50 in late 1995, $2 in 2003, $2.25 in 2009.  I don’t consider elimination of double fare zones lowering the fare as those never should have existed to begin with.  Yes, there are Metro Card discounts, but every transit system has discounts for frequent riders.  If we really want to move people to transit, it makes lots of sense to keep fares low, better yet eliminate them altogether.

    The biggest problem as I see it is securing a reliable source of funding for transit not subject to political whims.  After that, we need to reduce labor and construction costs to something reasonable.  I never understood why in inflation-adjusted dollars it’s costing more to build a short section of the Second Avenue subway than it did to build most of the IRT at the turn of the century.  It’s even more puzzling in light of the fact that we have machines to replace much of the manual labor used in the days of old.

    In the event the MTA does go bankrupt, maybe JSK could put a nice concrete roadbed on the subway tracks and convert them to bike highways.  The els especially would be lots of fun to ride on.

  • Ian Turner

    Joe, nothing wrong with discounts per se, but when they were introduced they had the effect of cutting the average fare nearly in half. So if you want to have discounts, fine, but you have to pay for them by increasing the base fare — otherwise you are in effect lowering the fare. The average fare paid, adjusted for inflation, is actually about 25% lower than it was in 1995. See here for a nice spreadsheet documenting how the fare has changed over time:
    http://vectro.org/Historical%20Subway%20Fare.xls

  • Joe R.

    Thanks for the spreadsheet, Ian.  I’ve always been curious of the inflation adjusted fare over the history of the subway.  The most interesting thing I took out of that spreadsheet was the fact that the adjusted fare was under $1 from 1917 through 1953, a period long before transit subsidies existed (and also incidentally before the time of union contracts which essentially gave away the store).

    Sure, a discounted fare absolutely needs to be paid for somehow, either by lowering operating costs, increasing subsidies, or increasing ridership.  The problem is we’ve made the first two politically unpalatable thanks to the aversion nowadays to government funding for mass transit, plus the stanglehold on elected officials by the unions in NYS.  That only leaves increased ridership, except many lines are already at or beyond capacity during rush hours.  I think the MTA should experiment with some combination of increased peak hour fares, and decreased off-peak fares.  This could have the added effect of spreading the rush hour, perhaps to the point where you can get rid of workers/equipment/capacity only needed now for peak hours.

    The MTA also needs to get trains over the road faster.  That’s a no-brainer cost cutting measure.  It’s the first thing I would do if I were running the MTA.  For any given frequency of service, you need fewer trains if those trains can run their route more quickly.  Back in 1995, after that Williamsburg Bridge accident, the MTA removed field shunting.  This slowed the acceleration over about 17 mph, and reduced the top speed from 55-57 mph down to about 42-44 mph.  Schedules were lengthened as a result, all the more so with the MTA sticking timers even along straight sections of track where there is no good reason to slow down.  Even the newer AC traction trains, for which field shunting isn’t applicable, have been “detuned” to more or less match the acceleration curves of older DC equipment.  If we’re serious about cutting costs, this is the first place to start-get the trains across the road as quickly as the route profile safely allows.  As an added bonus, faster transit will get more people out of their cars.

  • Joe R., according to the NYC Transit Museum, the subway system only recovered about half its costs through fares in the 1920s, foreshadowing the bankruptcy of the IRT in the 1930s. The fare had been fixed at five cents, and post-WW1 inflation halved the value of the dollar.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well not exactly.  The original assumption of the dual contracts was that the subway would pay for itself, including the cost of its construction.  That did not happen, with inflation playing a role.

    The city had paid for the construction of the subways.  The deal was the two companies first had to pay their operating costs, then their own debt (for equipment), they they received a guaranteed profit, then they would pay the interest on the bonds used to build the subway, and then an additional profits would be split between the city and the companies.

    The companies did end up covering operating costs and capital costs and earning some deferred profits.  But the low fixed fare led to — you guessed it — deferred maintenance.  “Save the fare” had the subways going downhill within a few years after its construction.  It also led to labor strife, as the worker’s pay was kept down below others in the 1920s.

    The city ended up paying for just about all of the cost of building the system, as it ended up paying for all of the bonds.  A fact that some who claim the private sector “built the subways” just don’t understand.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well not exactly.  The original assumption of the dual contracts was that the subway would pay for itself, including the cost of its construction.  That did not happen, with inflation playing a role.

    The city had paid for the construction of the subways.  The deal was the two companies first had to pay their operating costs, then their own debt (for equipment), they they received a guaranteed profit, then they would pay the interest on the bonds used to build the subway, and then an additional profits would be split between the city and the companies.

    The companies did end up covering operating costs and capital costs and earning some deferred profits.  But the low fixed fare led to — you guessed it — deferred maintenance.  “Save the fare” had the subways going downhill within a few years after its construction.  It also led to labor strife, as the worker’s pay was kept down below others in the 1920s.

    The city ended up paying for just about all of the cost of building the system, as it ended up paying for all of the bonds.  A fact that some who claim the private sector “built the subways” just don’t understand.

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