How Surprising, Promised Service Upgrades Get Shelved

In a move that will hardly surprise anyone, the MTA has officially shelved the service upgrades we were promised back in December as a reward for the fare hike that we were to endure. Daily News Transit Reporter Pete Donohue along with Kenneth Lovett has more on this:

The cash-strapped will not launch a $60 million service improvement package because it doesn’t have the money, the Daily News has learned.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority last year unveiled plans that included more frequent bus, subway and commuter trains to soften the blow of fare hikes. The program was to be launched in phases starting this summer – if the authority could afford it.

It can’t, sources said.

“A final decision won’t be made on the enhancements until we report June revenue numbers next week, but revenues would have to turn around significantly as we are already $80 million behind in real estate taxes alone,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

The program would cost $30 million this year and twice that amount for all of next year.

The MTA receives revenue from taxes on certain real estate transactions, but those funds are well below projections.

State lawmakers are about to go home after failing again to enact legislation directing more taxpayer funds to support mass transit, raising the specter of more fare and toll hikes next year.

Meanwhile, some MTA board members yesterday expressed shock that MTA CEO Elliot Sander recently was granted a raise.

“I’m floored,” said one board member after reading the Daily News’ exclusive article on the pay raise. “We’re trying to find ways to cut costs.”

The member said the raise was a “symbolic” gaffe that sent the wrong message about the MTA’s commitment to finding savings.

MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger gave a $10,000 raise to Sander, lifting his salary and other benefits to $350,000. Hemmerdinger said the 3% increase was warranted in part because Sander could make far more in a private sector job.

Gov. Paterson declined to immediately comment on the appropriateness of the raise but did say, “At first blush, anything that involves money, even if it’s slight, is a difficult issue for us right now.”

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) said the issue detracts attention from the more serious problem of the MTA’s massive budget gaps. “Timing is everything in life,” Brodsky said. They ought to chisel that on somebody’s forehead.

For starters, I am not surprised that riders will not get the promised service upgrades. Yes, the upgrades were promised on the notion that their financial situation would not turn south in the first 3 months of 2008. Yes, I acknowledge the fact that the MTA’s finances have been in the dumps this year. However don’t we the riding public deserve these upgrades?

We have put up with the fare hike & have been expecting these upgrades for months now. Now we are supposed to continue to deal with the fare hike, get no service upgrades, & prepare for the next fare hike which is just about a certainty to take place next year? This is getting out of hand!

Speaking of getting out of hand, the math used by the MTA must be called into question. Lets first start with a portion of an article by William Neuman of the New York Times:

The service additions are expected to cost $16 million next year and $46 million in 2009. The proposed fare increase would bring in $90 million in 2008 and $110 million the next year, the authority said.

So let me get this straight, the same exact service upgrades, which would have costed $16 million this year & $30 million the next, would now cost $30 million & $60 million respectively? Lets say the numbers would need to be adjusted due to rising costs by $1- $2 million, this still does not explain the huge differences in the respective price tags. Is our economy in the toilet at the moment? Yes, it is! However is it in such bad shape to cause price tags to just about & actually double within 6 months? No, not a chance!

This is yet another example of the fuzzy math & accounting practices that take place inside the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. How can we trust these numbers which come from an agency which has been busted for keeping different sets of books on their financial state? The answer for now is we can’t & the shelving of these upgrades can only be seen in one way. The upgrades were nothing but a bunch of lies to push along their fare hike agenda.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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