MTA Plans & Finances Editorial

Yesterday’s edition of the New York Daily News had a very good editorial about the MTA’s “tunnel vision” in regards to their plans & finances. Here is the editorial:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority gave the press a tour last week of a brand new mile-long excavation that’s supposed to turn the infamous Tunnel to Nowhere into the Tunnel to Somewhere.

And the thing is magnificent. From beneath Grand Central, it extends through bedrock to 63rd St., where it hooks up with a tube under the river to Queens, thus bringing the MTA closer to connecting the Long Island Rail Road with the East Side.

Never mind that the MTA started the project 40 years ago.

Never mind that the MTA is still, oh, $3 billion short of the estimated cost of completion.

Never mind that the MTA’s finances have been a festival of fantasies – with only the riders having to face reality in the form of fare hikes. Enough. It’s time for everyone to get real.

Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger and CEO Lee Sander are scheduled Monday to brief the MTA board on the state of the agency’s books and to clue the public in on Wednesday. Their financial plan better be damn good.

Hard facts. Credible facts that stand the test of time. No do-overs for at least a year, a standard officials generally live by.

The first question: How deep in the red is the MTA? The second: Will Hemmerdinger and Sander be savvy and tough enough to persuade Albany and City Hall to shield straphangers from fare hikes, maintain the system and complete expansion projects?

The first answer is easy – and ugly. The MTA’s deficit could hit $700 million because energy and labor costs are rising while a tanking economy is depressing tax collections.

To close the gap, riders are at high risk of a second fare hike in two years – despite having been promised a respite until 2010. Such a double whammy would be unfair. The deal was that riders would do their share and the state and city would do the rest. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer committed to kicking in $600 million. He’s gone, but the pledge should stand.

The challenge for Hemmerdinger and Sander – as well as for former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch, who is heading a study of agency finances – is to push government into properly funding the region’s lifeblood.

There has to be light at the end of the tunnel. Not a dead end.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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