Lawmakers Give The MTA A Piece Of Their Mind…

This past Tuesday a city-state coalition took to the steps of City Hall to announce their “Stop The Fare Hike Campaign”. The coalition includes 22 Democrats from the New York State Assembly along with such groups as:

  1. Disabled Riders Coalition,
  2. New York City Environmental Justice Alliance,
  3. The Straphangers Campaign
  4. Transportation Alternatives,
  5. Tri-State Transportation Campaign
  6. Vision Long Island

The coalition feels the MTA should hold off on the fare hike until at least April 15, 2008. They feel that the proposal should be taken off the agency’s 2008 budget vote which takes place in December. The politicians feel they can get the MTA its deserved portion of state funds if it was given the chance to do so.

Westchester Democrat Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said “We have to be persuasive with our colleagues, the Senate, with the governor, and get the money down here to save the fare.” He also went on to say “Fare increases are a last resort. After 12 years of neglect under the Pataki administration, we want to work with the M.T.A., the city and state governments to change the failed policies of the past.”

The coalition sent the MTA a letter which contained these comments among other things: “There are many strong reasons for increasing government aid to the M.T.A. There has been no permanent new state operating aid to M.T.A. New York City Transit in at least a dozen years.” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin responded to the letter by issuing this statement:

“The four-year financial plan that we proposed in July is designed to fill $6 billion in projected deficits while increasing service to meet rapidly growing demand. To fill these gaps, the plan relies on more than $2 billion in new state aid, including almost $400 million next year, and a cost-of-living increase in fares and tolls. Failure to receive either the anticipated state aid or the fare increase will require a more drastic increase and unacceptable service cuts starting in 2009.”

The sad part for the riders who are going to suffer is how the MTA did not even approach Albany looking for funds. The agency was so used to being stonewalled by the Pataki regime which shelled out MTA funds to non MTA projects mainly in upstate New York that they expected more of the same. According to Mr. Brodsky “Every other time there’s been a fare increase the MTA has gone to Albany and said I’m going to raise the fare unless you give us the money. That didn’t happen this time. I think that was a mistake.”

One of the 22 lawmakers to sign the letter was New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson. If you remember, he released a report on how state funds would prevent the need of a fare hike. He was at it again in terms of loudly voicing his opposition to a fare hike. Here are his latest powerful comments on the issue:

We are here today because riders deserve a subway, bus, and rail system that is the best in the world. As New Yorkers, it seems that every day we hear about yet another increase, rising costs that make it more difficult to make ends meet, to put food on the table, and to get to work and home each day. Before New Yorkers are asked to dip into their pockets and pocketbooks, we are asking the MTA to not rush ahead prematurely. The wisest approach is to give our state legislators time to enact legislation that will finally give New York City Transit its fair share of funding, so that any fare increase down the road does not disproportionately affect our area.

Before the MTA plans for higher fares and tolls and the next phase of its capital program, the State and the City must provide additional funding to New York City Transit that it is rightly owed. The extra cost to New York City and New York State would be recognition of the importance of mass transit as an economic engine and supports the larger goal of encouraging New Yorkers to rely more on public transportation. If the State and City step up their commitments to New York City Transit and the economy remains relatively strong, I believe that any fare and toll increases can be delayed for some time.

I am already in an annoyed mood but this has just furthered that annoyance. How can the MTA expect to get their deserved portion if they do not go after it? Considering the state’s recent track record on screwing the agency with funds, you would think the MTA would came out at their doorstep to get their money before it magically disappeared into undeserving hands. But wait why would I or anyone else expect the MTA to use common sense & do such a thing. I mean this is the same agency that somehow goes from having a huge surplus to crying poverty about not being able to survive. This is the same agency that has mismanaged money like it is going out of style since the beginning!

I really hope that the new regime at the MTA will seriously considering working with our politicians to acquire every last dollar humanly possible. By doing so we would all come out winners. The politicians will look good in the public eye for doing something useful for a majority of its constituents while the MTA would look good for being open minded & doing the right thing. Lastly riders would win because we could save the money we work so hard for so that we can survive in this expensive city!

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Remember the MTA had 4 years of budget surpluses, 15% increase in ridership past 10 years.
Why is it they could not have saved that money or cut spending, to have that money last going into a budget shortage? Why not condense the amount of agencies within the MTA, why not increase competition between bus and subway lines to give incentive for federal aid/state revenue, and considering a 67% increase in property taxes the past 5 years, 20% increase in water bills with a 18% hike looming, 12% hikes in electric bills all in the past 3 months, can New Yorkers support this without breaking their backs? You decide?

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