As I had mentioned previously, I wanted to attend yesterday’s presentation of the MTA’s financial plan & preliminary budget. Unfortunately due to business appointments in Long Island, I could not make it. However I did take the time to watch the entire board meeting & subsequent presentation live via the MTA’s webcast.
The board meeting in itself did not contain any surprises. I was a little disappointed in Gene Russainoff’s speech during his speaking time. Maybe he was saving the main course for when it really counts. Anyhow the first major observation I picked up on was the tone of some of the board members. I seriously think their financial situation is worse than even they thought it would be considering the circumstances. I was glad to hear them repeatedly state that the idea of cost cutting would not magically make the deficit disappear.
For years many have felt the MTA is clearly at fault for squandering their money away. While these claims have some legitimacy based on past & some current choices, it is obvious that it isn’t the sole reason they face an almost $1 billion dollar budge deficit. All the cost cutting in the world will barely make a dent in the overall deficit. As I have stated on repeated occasions, it is clearly up to the elected officials on all levels to properly fund our transit infrastructure.
Speaking of which I was very disappointed to hear Elliot backpedal when asked if the MTA should hold the elected officials more accountable for properly funding the system. While it might sound wise to say they must determine what would be a fair share, I strongly disagree with the stance. If anything our government should fork over extra to partially make up for all the times they railroaded the agency out of much needed & deserved funding.
Another concern I have is the Ravitch Commission which was setup by current New York Governor David Patterson. I understand the point to this committee & more so what Richard Ravitch accomplished the first time he was called on by the MTA to help in dire financial times. However I get the sense that some expect this commission to magically cook up the recipe to save the day like MacGyver used to do back in the late 80’s to early 90’s.
Looking at the numbers from Elliot’s presentation led me to asking myself the same question. Can a potential fare hike not only next year but in 2011 be averted? I say yes but it isn’t because of the proposed budget tightening from within the MTA itself. It is clearly in the hands of our elected officials who up to this point are unwilling to provide the proper funding to the system that in a way is a key to the overall economy.
What do our elected officials not understand? Our transit infrastructure needs major amounts of funding to keep up with not on a state of good repair but handle the continued growth throughout the tri-state region. If our transit system crumbles, the economy will be the next domino to fall down. If they need any proof of this, go back to the transit strike of 2005 which crippled the city’s transportation system. The local economy took a major hit over that few day period due to our system not moving around the millions of people that it does daily. Now if they thought that was bad, just imagine what our economy will turn to if the system falls in a prolonged period of shambles.
The current funding process is clearly dated & does not serve the best interests of the tri-state area. No longer are the days here where Albany leads New York to greener pastures. Without a strong NYC economy, the state is in a complete bind from all angles. Unfortunately our leaders treat the funding of the MTA the same way the agency does to the , an unwanted stepchild.
Why can’t they realize that something is clearly wrong when the financial health of our transit infrastructure is dependent on a cyclical market such as real estate to determine if it will be a good or bad year financially. This is completely unacceptable in a society where more & more people are turning to mass transit to get from “Point A” to “Point B”. We all hear how putting less cars on the road is good for the environment & how the masses are encouraged to take mass transit. Well if you really feel this way, provide the proper funding to maintain & improve our transit infrastructure. Stop punishing the riders who are doing what you wanted all along!
While I write this, I would like to call attention to Second Avenue Sagas’ own Benjamin Kabak who feels the MTA should double fares. Here is a sample of a few of his points:
Let’s start with an unpopular premise: The fares for the New York City subways are far too low, and they’re kept at low levels artificially by politicians looking to curry favors with voters.
If the MTA were to raise the base fare to $4 and the cost of Unlimited Ride 30-Day MetroCards to $120 — still a meager sum — people would complain, but they would still ride the trains. Under this fare structure, the MTA might make inroads into their budget crisis.
Meanwhile, politicians, falsely claiming populism, opted against congestion pricing, a measure that would have guaranteed the MTA at least $400 million a year annually for operating costs. Noticeably absent from the fare hike coverage is mention of how, with congestion pricing, that $900 million deficit would be cut in half.
New Yorkers won’t admit that subway fares are low — artificially so — and would still be a good deal even doubled. We want a top-line subway system that’s clean and efficient, but we don’t want to pay. These are irreconcilable differences, and something has to give. So let’s raise those fares until Albany is forced to lay out the big bucks.
I will first begin with my main idea & that is the MTA should not double the fares. One thing I have noticed from him over time is his belief that our fares even with increases are quite paltry compared to the amount of service we get. I ask are they really?
Every time straphangers turn around, they get to hear or read a report of how buses & subways are running behind schedule. In some areas instead of an increase in service to match growth in ridership, we get the same amount of pre-growth service or even worse reductions. So once again are the fares really too low? Is this kind of service acceptable because we pay such a “paltry” amount for fares? I think not & many riders would echo the same sentiment.
I am a numbers guy & understand why on “paper” it would seem to be a wise idea to double the current fares. However as I stated above, if the current service is not worth what we pay now, what makes one think it will be worth paying double for it? By doubling fares on riders, you are just adding to the financial burden experienced by millions of tri-state area residents. While on “paper” the fares are low, when you are struggling to make ends meet & most times barely doing so if at all, asking riders to pay more much less double is not the right way to go about doing things. I would not be so sure that “they would still ride the trains.”
Readers of this blog know just where I stand on congestion pricing. Once again I see it being trumpeted as a huge saving grace for the MTA’s financial woes. I will continue to call bullshit on that every single time. I have asked this question numerous times, show me any sort of proof that congestion pricing was nothing more than an excuse to collect revenue for the city in a form of a tax & put a burden on drivers as if they grow money on tress. The plan was nothing more than a modernized version of “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul”. Such proposals will only end up hurting a majority in the end. The plan should be noticeably absent from fare hike coverage as it is & always will be a complete sham.
Lastly as I said, doubling the fares for the current system in place would not be a good deal. To even think so is mind boggling in my opinion. Come talk to me when we have a completely modernized system from equipment to facilities & the stations themselves & I’ll agree with you.
You are right Benjamin, we as riders do want a “top-line subway system that’s clean and efficient” & do not want to pay for it. Why not? Because we as riders should not have to shoulder the majority of the costs to provide such a system. Our elected officials should come up with the money to provide a system we rightfully deserve as it benefits everyone in the long run.
Asking us to once again shoulder more costs in such struggling times is completely irresponsible & irrational. Doing such a thing is only encouraging our government to continue to short change the MTA as they feel the riding public can make up for their purposeful shortcomings. Instead of irresponsibly raising fares, the MTA should do everything & I mean everything possible to get all the money they rightfully deserve & take no prisoners in doing so.
Now that is what is truly needed regardless of what the “numbers” look like on paper. Now is the time to put an end to the never ending mickey mouse bullshit & take care of business. You are right Benjamin, “something has to give” & it sure should not be “us”.