MTA To Vote On Budget Savings Plan

Today is a big day for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) or more specifically New York City Transit, as they will be voting on the proposed budget savings plan. The plan would eliminate or curb back the following:

Matthew Sweeney of AMNY filed this report which will appear in tomorrow’s edition:

Let the service cuts begin.

New York City Transit is expected to vote Monday on its budget-savings plan that would halt plans to repair 19 stations, put off paint jobs for flaking elevated structures, and institute a more “efficient” way of cleaning subway cars.

The delays on the capital project are estimated to save $2.4 billion at a time when the MTA is warning of a possible fare hike next year. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must release a preliminary budget for 2009 next month and estimates a deficit of $500 million to $700 million.

“I think they need to spend money on making stations look better,” said Demitri Yermolaev, 26, of Brooklyn, as he waited for the train in Union Square. “Service has to be improved, definitely not scaled back.”

Many of the cuts, however, will take place behind the scenes and delay needed repairs to transit buildings that keep the system running, such as tunnel vents, bus depots, and a subway-car overhaul shop.

“You have to be concerned about the lack of funding support from the state and the city,” said MTA board member Andrew Albert. “They want all of these improvements and then they scream when we raise fares. They have to come up with more money.”

The MTA is waiting for a commission headed by former authority chairman Richard Ravitch to recommend new sources of funding. In the absence of additional funding from the state, the cuts will help pay for $2.5 billion in capital projects such as subway flooding control, increases to paratransit service, and rehabilitation of the elevated section of the F line in Brooklyn and new cars for the “letter” subway lines.

Another $8.9 million in savings will come from the MTA’s operating budget. The savings, which will fund increased service on certain train lines, include subway car cleaning and quality control.

“None of the reductions will have an impact on what riders see,” said transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges in an e-mail.

In the past, transit advocates have disputed the MTA’s proclaimed “efficiencies” as little more than service cuts.

William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory to the MTA, wondered exactly where the savings would be found in subway car cleaning.

“When people get on a car and maybe it’s not quite as clean as before, they notice it,” he said.

The $8.9 million will fund increases on numerous subway lines targeted to relieve crowding. Transit will add 10 trains to the No. 4 line throughout the weekday, and more weekend service on the No. 7 line. The No. 3 train will get overnight service to 148th Street. Other lines with added service are the No. 1 (weeknights), No. 6 (weeknights), Times Square shuttle (late morning rush), and the B, M and W trains.

The added service allows transit to try and maintain its own guidelines for crowding that have been overwhelmed by increases in ridership during the past four years.

“While one trip may not seem like anything substantial, the impact will be felt not only by those riders who ride that particular train, but by riders up and down the line who will benefit from the reduction in over crowded conditions,” Fleuranges said.

Major construction projects — such as the Second Avenue subway or the East Side Access plan to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal — are not on the chopping block yet, said those who were briefed on the current cost-savings plan.

“Those are the projects they’re trying to protect,” Henderson said. “Those are the projects where a delay really ends up costing you money.”

Henderson said that to some riders, getting repairs to their home station was as important as the Second Avenue Subway.

But delays on the mega-projects are possible in the long run, and the agency has not ruled out cuts to train service as a last resort to balance its budget.

“I’m not going to be for any cutting for service,” Albert. “It’s one thing to raise the fare; its quite another to cut service, especially when we have record ridership. The better policy is for the state to fund all of this.”

Andrew Albert has a strong point when he said “They want all of these improvements and then they scream when we raise fares. They have to come up with more money.” He is 100% right about our elected officials needing to give them more money. However it should be noted that the MTA should also be held accountable for years of wasting money as well. The issues that face the cash strapped agency go both ways so some soul searching is needed from the likes of Mr. Albert & his peers.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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