State Senate on Transit Funding Meltdown: It Wasn’t Us

After omitting bridge tolls from last spring’s transit funding package, then raiding the "piggy bank" to the tune of $143 million, Albany’s neglect of the MTA has left millions of transit-dependent New Yorkers in the lurch. Yet lawmakers have shown no inclination to get to work patching the agency’s ever-widening budget hole, much less coming up with a viable long-term fiscal solution. Quite the opposite.

senatetools_voice.jpgSens. Kruger, Diaz Sr. and Espada, three of the Fare Hike Four, giving transit riders the business. Photo: AP/Voice

As once-planned "doomsday" service cuts expected to be approved this week were put back on the table, Senate Dems attempted to evade responsibility by deflecting and projecting. Said Fare Hike Four mastermind Carl Kruger, as quoted in the Observer:

"Our ability to budget is only as good as our ability to forecast. We were dependent upon data supplied by the Office of Management and Budget with the understanding that it was verified by the MTA’s own fiscal staff. Furthermore, our projections were based on the fiscal year rather than the calendar year. This critical point should have been taken into account when the MTA fiscal staff developed its parameters."

Insisting that the new payroll tax will someday do the job, Senate spokesman Austin Shafran accused the MTA of employing scare tactics, while transportation committee chair Martin Malave Dilan lashed out at the new transit chief, then in his ninth week on the job. Again, from the Observer:

[Dilan] is angry that the M.T.A. didn’t say anything about its sudden $343 million deficit sooner.

"It is an affront to our burgeoning partnership, often discussed in previous months, to exclude us from this critical information," Dilan wrote in a letter to M.T.A. CEO Jay Walder. "It appears, even under new leadership, that business will continue as usual with Gary Dellaverson assuming the addition[al] role of press secretary for the MTA. Instead of a cooperative exchange of thoughts and information, we may be left with an adversarial relationship played out in the press."

So, who’s going to hold these pols to account? Probably not the Working Families Party, whose latest online petition amplifies the MTA-bashing of Kruger and company. The governor, meanwhile, looks to be sitting it out altogether as the engine of the region’s economy is threatened with a massive breakdown.

Will any state legislator step up and show some leadership at this critical moment? Eric Schneiderman? Dan Squadron? Liz Krueger? John Sampson? Anyone?

  • glenn


  • Larry Littlefield

    Some of the comments on the Daily News article on slashing student transportation are instructive. Sounds like a bunch of seniors saying “to hell with the annoying little bastards with their I-pods and sneakers.”

    Which was tolerable when America’s seniors were those who came up rough in the Depression and fought in World War II. Today’s seniors lived through the period where median wages were the highest and rising, inherited the lowest federal debt as a share of GDP since the 1920s, etc.

    No one mentioned the expansion of half-fares for seniors in the 1990s, other than me on Room Eight. And there was no mention of the fact that the vast majority of U.S. schoolchildren now ride to school on free school buses, for better or worse.

    I stand my by suggestion — less than 10 miles rent the kids simple one-speed bicycles with locks, helmets, and safety vests. Shift to bikes en-masse. And every time someone runs over a kid, send a bottle of Champaign to the State Assembly and State Senate, among others.

  • glenn

    Maybe I should expand that comment.
    Leadership is the ability to get people to follow you while asking them to make sacrifices for the common good. No State Senator (DEm or GOP) seems to have much ability to lead yet.

  • Boris

    Now that the TWU got their pay increase, I wouldn’t want a quick solution. Why have congestion pricing if the money will just go to union worker salaries and pensions? Of course, CP has various non-transit benefits as well, but I’d rather have TWU workers first see for themselves what service cuts will bring- including a decrease in their own safety.

  • I hate those guys.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    That’s pretty clear Eric, now there will be 700 fewer of them for you to hate. Don’t worry though, you still have Ratner.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Will any state legislator step up and show some leadership at this critical moment?”

    This isn’t a critical moment. The critical moments occured over 15 years-plus, and only Chapter 9 bankruptcy would allow the legislature to take (some of it) back. The hole is massive, deep and growing, and not just at the MTA.

    Imagine if on top of everything else the TWU got the 20/50 pension. Remember, the legislature passed it without a single no vote, and after Pataki vetoed it, they went on strike for it. And probably will again.

    Come to think of it, that is one of two things the TWU could do to help transit riders. A (say) two week strike in the summer, with managers also laid off and health insurance cut, would help balance the books since the MTA loses money on every ride.

    The other is to let everyone know when deferred maintenance is taking place.

  • JK

    Speaking of the MTA “piggy bank,” why are paying transit riders and bridge and tunnel toll payers subsidizing the NYC school system? The split on free school transit passes is roughly $70m MTA, $45m NYC, $45m NY State. The city and state shares has been declining since the mid-1990’s when they froze their contributions.

  • We’re launching an emergency petition to stop the MTA service cuts — please sign on and then send this far and wide.


    The worst part? Transit experts say much of the cuts aren’t necessary. The proposed cuts can be stopped if the MTA uses available stimulus and reserve funds to close the gap.

    Thanks, Gene Russianoff!

  • Ian Turner

    A two week strike would cost the city several billion dollars, not a good way to balance the MTA books.

    The Working Families Party, and Russianoff, are asking for the MTA to eliminate the service cuts by increasing debt and deferring maintenance. Also not a good way to balance the MTA books.

  • v

    a nyt article today describes the effect on disabled residents. rather than dropping people at their destination, the ‘call and ride’ vehicles will only bring handicapped travelers to the closest disabled-accessible location (subway or bus stop…).

    frustratingly, many many of the elevators and other such infrastructure are broken on a regular basis. this is a little like smacking disabled passengers in the face, and then leaving them out in the cold.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Here’s the thing: the state legislature just added a massive tax payable to the MTA, another dedicated tax on top of many others. A very unpopular tax. But isn’t nearly enough to offset the damage from the past — caused in most cases by their own past decisions.

    Some of this is the recession, and in hard times most of us (although apparently not government pensioners and employees with seniority) have to expect some sacrifice. But a lot of it is permanent.

  • Galls

    Hi guys,

    Guess what I am gonna say? Privatize operations, keep politicians away from labor.

  • …because what this discussion really needed was a facile libertarian perspective.

  • John Galt

    Galls, join me and we can buy back the Queens bus lines from the MTA and show them how good transit service can be. The people of Eastern Queens are hungry for the resumption of private bus service. Enough of this socialism. Real Americans want real solutions. Ridership will soar when we charge $5 a trip for local bus service.

  • Dear John Galt – if only we had Dagny Taggert running the MTA, we’d be set.

  • Galls

    Cap’n Transit and John Galt,

    Do you have any useful retort against the fact that both subway and bus operations provided a much better value when their operations where privatized? Galt, the inflation adjusted fare from 1940, the last year of BMT operations is $.76 not $5.00, and they still made a profit.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Do you have any useful retort against the fact that both subway and bus operations provided a much better value when their operations where privatized?”

    The private bus companies did it by not funding their pensions, which were then dumped on the MTA vastly more unfunded than even the public pensions as part of the takeover deal.

    The private school bus companies, using their campaign contributions and lobbying to manipulate public policy in their favor just like the TWU, are robbing us to an even greater extent. One thing more efficient private businesses do more efficiently is fleece the government.

    And finally, the private sector’s Local 1199 and the Greater New York Hospital Association. Enough said.


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