Another Perk Bites The Dust

Three days ago I wrote about how Alison Gendar and Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News exposed how 60 MTA Bridge & Tunnel employees were given the use of MTA owned vehicles which also came with no expense for gas. Due to their report, MTA CEO/Executive Director Elliot Sander has called for an end to the practice. Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has the story:

The MTA is curbing the use of authority-owned cars by staffers who don’t even have to pay to fill the tank, officials revealed Wednesday.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chief Executive Officer Elliot Sander ordered the cost-cutting in a memo to top administrators that was dated Tuesday – a day after a Daily News report about Bridge and Tunnel workers using authority sedans to commute.

“The budget problems we are facing are daunting,” the memo states. “The severe drop in proceeds from our real estate taxes, coupled with dramatic increases in fuel prices, are creating great stress on our operating budget.”

By September, miles traveled by “nonrevenue vehicles” must be slashed by 15%, according to the memo, which also ordered cuts on out-of-town travel, food, beverages, cell phones and BlackBerrys.

Planned hirings also are to be delayed by two months.

Citing burgeoning budget deficits and inadequate state and city funding, Sander has warned that further fare and toll hikes could be necessary next year.

The savings ordered by the memo will amount to approximately $5 million and is the first salvo in an initiative in which Sander expects to find even more savings, MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

Under a prior directive, agency heads were told to find annual budget savings of 6% over four years, which would total about $80 million over the next year.

William Henderson, executive vice president of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, said such administrative belt-tightening could give the authority “some necessary breathing room.” But the large budget gaps will require “a more comprehensive solution that provides reliable, stable and inflation-sensitive funding to operate vital transportation services.”

Gov. Paterson last month created a blue-ribbon panel to recommend ways to increase transit funding. It is expected to issue a report in November or December.

On Monday, The News reported that 60 MTA Bridges and Tunnels supervisors have division-owned cars in case of emergencies that require them to respond from home.

The vehicles also are used for daily commutes. The division also has 40 so-called pool cars that staffers not assigned their own set of authority wheels can request for official business during working hours, The News reported.

I think this is a wise decision by Elliot considering the dire financial situation the MTA is currently dealing with. From a P.R. perspective, it is also a smart move as well. One of the major reasons given for the current financial mess the MTA faces is rising fuel costs. Well if that is the case (which it is in this instance), how could you justify employees being allowed to use agency owned vehicles that come with free gas? There is no way you could justify that at this time, especially when over half of the employees taking advantage of this perk make over $100,000 a year.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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