Here We Go Again

Over the last month or so, the MTA has found its name in the spotlight for one piece of bad press after another. Just when you think this vicious cycle has slowed down, out comes the news of 60 MTA Bridge & Tunnel employees who receive employee cars with gas included as a perk. Alison Gendar and Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has the story:

Despite a fiscal crisis that could trigger another round of fare and toll hikes, dozens of top-level MTA staffers not only get free E-ZPasses – they get gassed-up authority cars to boot.

The free riders – 60 strong – work for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bridge and tunnel division as executives, engineers and supervisors. At least 37 make more than $100,000 a year, payroll records show.

Staffers are not supposed to use the late-model sedans for personal use other than commuting between their offices and home, according to MTA Bridges and Tunnels, which said the cars were doled out in case of emergencies.

The MTA division pays to maintain and fuel the cars, mostly Ford Crown Victorias, Ford Tauruses and Chevrolet Impalas, according to agency records.

“There is no reason people making good salaries can’t drive to work and then take a pool car to where they need to go,” said one bridge and tunnel worker who drives his own car to work, referring to MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ fleet of 40 cars that staffers not assigned cars can request for official business during working hours.

“You can’t ask commuters to feel the pain but hand out cars like candy.”

The MTA division defended the car assignments.

“Cars are assigned to certain titles when it is deemed necessary for them to most efficiently perform their duties and responsibilities,” the division said in a written statement to the Daily News. “Like all other transportation agencies with 2-4/7 operations, there is a need for certain employees to be available round the clock to respond in case of emergencies.”

The group of motorists includes Martha Walther, executive vice president of operations, who earns $187,000 a year, and Sharon Gallo-Kotcher, labor relations vice president, who pulls in $140,000 a year. Both live on Long Island and have offices on Randalls Island.

Randalls Island is not flush with mass transit options, but it is directly served by one bus line. The MTA’s bridge and tunnel division also runs an employee shuttle from Penn Station.

Nearly three dozen of the staffers with authority-issued cars are based at one of the MTA’s nine bridges and tunnels, where there are offices and employee parking lots. Their job titles are facility general manager, operations superintendent, maintenance superintendent and chief engineer.

The cars issued are not clunkers. According to a breakdown, the vast majority of the models are less than four years old.

The division said the types of situations that would require a response from home include multiple accidents at a toll plaza, an accident that potentially damaged part of a bridge or a tunnel, an employee injury, a serious oil spill or a power failure.

Workers with authority-issued cars are supposed to report the travel benefit on their tax returns.

In the overall scheme of things I don’t think the cost of this perk will starve off any potential fare hike. However on principal it sure does look bad considering over half of the employees make 6 figures in salary. If you are making 6 figures, you can afford to use your own vehicle for business even in today’s economy. How does the MTA expect to look to government officials when they ask for the money they deserve when they clearly mismanage what little they get now? These perks have got to come to an end or at least be put on hold until the agency as a whole is in better financial shape.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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