Today’s Headlines

  • MTA Board Considers Two Fare Hikes (NYT, News, Sun, Post, AMNY)
  • News: Lawmakers Must Deliver Comprehensive MTA Strategy, Not a Patchwork Plan
  • Michael Daly: Energy Conserving Subways Deserve More Support From Feds (News)
  • MTA Budget Plan Doesn’t Trim Top Executives From Payroll (News)
  • Higher Gas Prices = Safer Roads (AP)
  • NYT: David Gantt Must Go
  • DOT Announces 10 Finalists in Bike Rack Design Competition (Gothamist)
  • Some Council Members Want to Raise Taxi Fuel Surcharge (Sun, City Room)
  • Brooklyn’s Shortest Subway Line Is Also New York’s Most Reliable (NYT)
  • Bike Boom Helps Portland Ride Out Spike in Gas Prices (NPR)
  • Larry Littlefield

    Back when it might have made a difference, I was in favor of transit fares that kept up with inflation and paying taxes to support the transit system.

    But now it’s too late. No fare increases. No tax increases on wages. And no tax increases on property.

    Whether we pay more or not, younger generations aren’t going to get public services and benefits. The greedy bastards have taken it all, not just today but forever in the future.

  • Phil

    As to the decline in deaths in traffic accidents I don’t know what’s causing that since traffic doesn’t seem any less to me than it did in the past. I drive the length of the NJ Tpke once or twice a month and the road still has lots of crazy drivers as well as aggressive truck drivers (which I think is a bigger problem than anyone talks about today)and the tpke always is packed. It’s really hard sometimes to squeeze through the crowds to get to a toilet at a rest stop. I realize that it’s all anecdotal but I’ve been driving for 45 years. And the last 10 have been the worst even with the better technology . . .

  • Streetsman

    The less I think about David Gantt the better I feel

  • There is still hope.

  • Phil, it makes sense that tolled roads are going to see less of an effect from higher gas prices as they already have at least one significant cost. Even then, I suspect a count would reveal that traffic volumes are down on the NJ turnpike as in the country as a whole. (I’m surprised that our bridge toll traffic has decreased, but then gas is the one cost of driving that can’t be avoided through political connections.) It may not be perceptible, and there will always be crazy drivers, but there is no surer way to save some part of 40,000 lives yearly in this country than to reduce the driving roulette by any amount.

  • Ron

    At the end of the day, trimming one or two or a dozen MTA executives’ budgets is not really the solution. Nobody is talking about the MTA’s real money drain–there are literally thousands of overpaid employees in the MTA’s rank-and-file that get paid $40-$80+/hour for jobs that are relatively low-skill-level.

    The bargaining power of the transit workers’ unions needs to be broken big-time before the MTA’s budget woes can be fixed.

    Until then, keeping the MTA constantly cash-strapped is actually the agency’s biggest bargaining chip with the unions. As soon as funding is raised, that leverage disappears, and the unions bleed more money out of the agency, leaving the MTA right where it started.

  • Car Free Nation

    Compared to the increase in gas prices that has rasied the costs to individual drivers by more than double, the increase in transit costs seems minor. The real problem is that the MTA has no inflation adjustment in its fees. Most government fees increase with inflation. Look at sales tax, property tax, income tax, corporate tax. As people earn more dollars, the amount collected by government increases, even if there is no “tax increase.”
    One obvious problem with congestion pricing as a funding mechanism, is over time, the rates will need to be raised to keep up with inflation. There is no regular increase that counteracts the ever weakening dollar.
    Since it’s all electronic, and therefore making change doesn’t matter, perhaps it would be prudent to have any congestion charge indexed to inflation.

  • DOT Announces 10 Finalists in Bike Rack Design Competition (Gothamist)

    Is it just me, or do many of the designers and jury not understand the politics of the NYC sidewalks?

    The designs are all pretty cool but several either take up much more sidewalk space than the current CityRack design (like locking 2 bikes in a V-shape) or look seriously unsecure, which might work in just about any other city in the world where you can run a cute little chain through the front tire and come back 3 days later and find your bike still there.

    Maybe that will be filtered out by a reality-check at the end of the process.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I agree — too much space. But I think it’s time to extend the sidewalk and switch parking spaces on side streets from motor vehicles to bikes.

  • Nobody is talking about the MTA’s real money drain–there are literally thousands of overpaid employees in the MTA’s rank-and-file that get paid $40-$80+/hour for jobs that are relatively low-skill-level.

    Actually, Ron, I hear a lot of people saying things like that when contract renewal time comes up.

    Please explain to us why people performing jobs that are “relatively low-skill-level” should be paid wages that don’t adequately cover the cost of living in New York City. Also please explain why you think we should pay wages that are so low as to be guaranteed to increase turnover, putting our safety into the hands of people with no familiarity with the transit system.

  • compensation for mta employees is ridiculously too high, well more than simply “covering the cost of living in New York City” . . expecially when factoring in the overly generous retirement package & healthcare benefits, and factoring in the poor, poor quality of work and customer service.

    the twu is bleeding the mta dry, and its a goddam shame

  • Larry Littlefield

    For the actual costs of MTA services, refer to my latest Room 8 post, which includes a crunched down spreadsheet of the latest operating cost ratios from the National Transit Database.

    Retired TWU workers are draining the young. Retirees in general, and soon to retire generations, are destroying the future for those who come after. But in the case of NYC Transit the weapon of choice has been debt more than pensions.

    As for the money actually used to operate transit service, New York City Transit is relatively low cost.

    MetroNorth and the LIRR are suburban sinecures.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Ron does manage to throw some fuel on the fire now doesn’t he? Could he name just one “relatively low-skill” individual, or even job title, that makes that rate. I’m guessing he thinks motormen (engineers on the railroads) who make around $30 in hourly wage, are low skill. I’m guess he thinks electricians who make around $28 depending on the property are pretty low skill too. He is certainly welcome to apply for any of these positions.

    As Larry often points out though, these workers do come with a nice retirement package. Thats what keeps them in their “relatively low-skilled” positions when electricians on the outside make around $35/hr. They work on particular pieces of equipment and transit properties have learned over the years that good pensions keeps turnover and training costs down and provides a pool of managers who know how to actually run the trains. Of course since Ron knows these are such “low-skill” titles he probably knows that you don’t really have to do much training for engineers and/or third rail electricians.

    There are low skill positions at the MTA, like station and car cleaners, who make much less and need much less training, the MTA has been cutting their jobs in a sort of title triage that the Daily News and Ron must enjoy. Maybe they should have started to cut the workforce at the level of engineer and motormen, they could have saved more money and the stations and trains are much easier to clean when the trains are laid up in the yards. Of course they aren’t actually carrying any passengers then either.

    These are pretty good jobs though, no one denies that, maybe Ron would like one. In that case he should take the Civil Service Test and wait to get called, take another test, piss in a bottle, and join the gravy train. I suggest picking up a copy of “The Chief”. Where the MTA is really having trouble in the labor market is among supervisors, middle managers and mangers, the people the Daily News snears at as “suits”. In that labor market the MTA has to compete with the many consultants who need similar skills and pay substantially more than the MTA.

    Ron is the logical result of a media that has demonized the MTA since its creation with the laudable goal of selling newspapers. The MTA has to give the public the bad news now and then, that fares have to go up. When they do that, the chorus is relentless from the likes of Ron and Pete Donahue. Those people make too much, cut the waste, ad infinitum. OK. So no surprise next time it happens.

    I think it is good service at a fair price and want the system expanded. And I want good people working there. Safety is critical, I want professionals at the wheel. Maybe Ron is happy with part timers, being paid minimum wage, who will leave for a better thing after a couple years. We all have different wants.

    The concept of the MTA, created by Rocky when the passenger rails and NYC Transit were bankrupt, may have run its course, an independent agency that tries to make the best decisions regarding fare and toll increases, wages and benefits. Maybe it is time to turn the authority back to the politicians and the Daily News. Fares will never go up again, the system will disintegrate, then the fare payers will throw out the politicians and the cycle will start over again. Can’t wait.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Wow! These are their ten finalists?!?!?!?!

    Just like I feared, THEY (almost) ALL TOTALLY SUCK!!!

    Throw them out and start over! PLEASE!!!

    First, many are not identifiable as bike racks. It is also inconceivable that ANY of the finalists would provide only ONE attachment point. Those should have been thrown out IMMEDIATELY!!!!! Others are made of soft metals and even plastic. COME ON! This is NYC. Haven’t you heard that bicycle theft is a problem here. I can’t believe the total design incompetence displayed in this competition.

    The rack design should be able to allow a user to secure the REAR wheel and bicycle frame with a U-Lock without having to lift the rear wheel. The SECONDARY attachment should be to the front wheel and NOT the other way around.

    I wish I could find the link to the manufacturer of fantastic modified inverted U-Rack that I saw (I just looked for over an hour). I thought of this design competition when I saw it a couple weeks ago. It was even better than the tradition inverted U-Rack (I never thought that was possible) and was very stylish and made of tough thick stainless steel. ARGHHH! I wish I could find the link. It was vastly superior to any of the 10 final designs shown.