Even More Free Perk Usage Details

While preparing to write an entry on a completely different topic, I came across Daily News Transit Reporter Pete Donohue’s report on the usage value of the E-Z Pass tags used by MTA Board Members. To say the numbers are disturbing would be a huge understatement. Here is Pete’s report courtesy of the Daily News:

Current and former MTA board members took more than $30,000 worth of free bridge and tunnel trips – in just one year, the Daily News has learned.

Nearly four dozen transit bigwigs, some of whom left the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board decades ago, racked up 7,513 in free bridge and tunnel trips from November 2006 to November 2007, according to E-Z Pass records obtained by The News.

They were among those granted free E-ZPasses for unsalaried work on the authority board, a perk the MTA will end if a resolution is adopted by the board next week.

During the tug of war over the passes, which extends to commuter trains, subways and buses, some board members argued that having free access is a small “thank-you” for their unsalaried public service.

The E-ZPass records, provided by the MTA in response to a Freedom of Information Law request submitted by The News, begin to put a price tag to those taxpayer-funded gifts.

The most frequent user of a free E-ZPasses for that time period was former board member Warren Dolny, who was Rockland County’s representative on the board from 1989 to 1996.

MTA toll gates opened for Dolny without charge 918 times.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels says the average toll across the system is about $4.

The records don’t show which bridges or tunnels were used during the jaunts, just the number of “nonrevenue E-ZPass transactions.”

Second on the list is bus driver Ed Watt, a current nonvoting board member. Watt also is secretary treasurer of Transport Workers Union Local 100. He took 839 free trips.

“Ed’s full-time job is conducting MTA business, and that’s what he uses his E-ZPass for,” a union spokesman said.

Former board member Richard Nasti came in third at 674 trips. Current board members and fellow multimillionaires David Mack and Donald Cecil came in fourth and fifth, respectively, with 585 and 570 freebie drives.

I’m so disgusted by this!

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Free Perks Price Tag

The MTA Board free perks scandal continues as a new report comes out with some usage statistics. William Neuman of the New York Times shares some usage statistics for the free E-Z Pass tags that are in the hands of MTA Board members. Here is his report:

How much has a free E-ZPass been worth to David S. Mack, the vice chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority? The answer would seem to be about $2,340 a year. Data provided by the authority shows that between November 2006 and November 2007, Mr. Mack recorded 585 transactions on his free E-ZPass tags (Mr. Mack was issued six of them).

At the time covered by the data, the one-way E-ZPass toll on most M.T.A. bridges and tunnels was $4, which suggests that if he was not traveling for free, Mr. Mack would have racked up a bill of $2,340.

(It is difficult to say for sure, however, what the value was, since tolls on some of the bridges controlled by the authority are less than $4, while the Verrazano Narrows Bridge toll for E-ZPass users last year was $8.)

Mr. Mack, a wealthy real estate executive from Long Island, stirred controversy this week  when he defended the free E-Z Pass tags and free subway, rail and bus passes given to current and former board members of the authority. He said on Wednesday that he might not ride the Long Island Rail Road if he had to pay. But a day later he backtracked and said he would support a change allowing board members to use free passes only while on official business.

But Mr. Mack was not the board member with the most E-ZPass transactions during that period. Among current board members, Ed Watt, the secretary-treasurer of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents subway and bus workers, had the highest total, with 839 E-ZPass transactions over the 12-month period, according to the authority’s data. Mr. Watt, who holds one of six non-voting positions on the board, had only one free tag.

The highest number of transactions was tallied by a former board member, Warren S. Dolny, who had two passes and recorded a total of 918 transaction. Mr. Dolny served on the board in the early to mid-1990s, as a representative of Rockland County.

I don’t know what is worse, the fact that current board members get these perks or the fact that past board members receive them as well. While some could argue that the perks come with the job, there is absolutely no defending past board members receiving them. Why is Mr. Dolny still receiving these perks when he has not been a MTA Board member since the mid 1990’s. We are talking about someone who has not been in the position since a minimum of 10 years ago.  His perks along with any other former board members should be revoked immediately.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Promised Service Upgrades Afterall?

On Tuesday,  Pete Donohue of the Daily News filed a report about the promised service upgrades that were to come from our fare hike were being completely shelved. However William Neuman of the New York Times says differently in his report:

A burgeoning financial crisis will prevent the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from delivering on most of a series of promised service expansions — but a more modest set of changes aimed at easing subway crowding is still in the works, officials said on Wednesday.

Extra service, sometimes in small increments, sometimes in larger ways, will be added to nine subway lines in July, according to information distributed to the authority’s board this week.

The changes include having the B and W trains run until 11 p.m. on weekdays, an hour and a half later than they currently run. And the No. 3 train, which currently shuts down from midnight to 5 a.m., would run during those hours between Times Square and 148th Street.

The changes will cost about $4.5 million for the remainder of this year and $8.9 million a year after that. They require approval by the authority’s board, which meets next week.

Most of the changes were included in a larger set of service improvements — for the New York City subway and buses, the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad — that the authority’s board put forward last December at the same time that it approved a fare and toll increase.

Those improvements were expected to cost a total of $46 million annually, and the board said in December that they would not be put in place until a review of the authority’s finances in the first three months of this year had been completed.

That review showed that the authority was receiving far less revenue from taxes on real estate transactions than it had anticipated, and the improvements were put on hold until June.

But officials said this week that the financial situation had become worse and that the authority would not be able to carry out most of the proposed improvements, including several ambitious expansions to bus service.

(The authority’s executive director, Elliot G. Sander, said recently that early estimates showed the authority facing a deficit of $500 million to $700 million next year.)

That leaves the subway service changes, which will be paid for by making cuts in other parts of the subway budget, including administrative costs and subway car cleaning expenses, among others.

“Customers are going to see more service on these lines during these specific time periods, shorter waits during these time periods and a little bit more wiggle room,” said Paul Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, which operates the subway.

The changes range from adding one train to the schedule on the No. 3 line throughout the morning peak period to running 14 additional trains on the No. 7 line on Saturdays and Sundays.

Mr. Fleuranges said that adding even one train on a busy line like the No. 3 would shave about a minute off wait times and would relieve crowding.

“One train is a lot of people,” he said.

The documents distributed to the board said that the changes were needed on lines that exceed what the transit agency calls its loading guidelines — a measure of the maximum number of people that subway cars should carry at different times of the day. Those guidelines typically require at least three square feet per person, and they are often violated in rush periods when people squeeze in.

Some of the lines that will receive more service, like the B and W, do not exceed the limits, but adding trains there will ease crowding on other lines that use the same tracks, like the Q and the N.

The lines that will receive added service or that will benefit from added service elsewhere include the 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, B, J, M, N, Q, W and the shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal, according to the board documents.

One line that had been scheduled for more service in the original proposal last December but was not included in this round of improvements was the G. Riders on the G often complain of long waits between trains. Officials said the G did not exceed the loading guidelines.

First off lets see if the MTA Board approves these upgrades. Even if they do, they are not enough considering what was on the table just 6 months ago. I truly feel bad for train riders as they are getting the screwjob once again! The MTA needs to put away the formulas & use common sense.  The is the one line that might be the most deserving in terms of overall upgrades. It is beyond ridiculous that some formula is the determining factor used to shaft train riders. This nonsense has got to come to an end!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Releases A Statement On Board Member Passes

Over the last number of days, many outlets, including this very blog, have come down hard on the MTA for the free perks their board members receive. The storm of criticism only became bigger after MTA Board Vice President David Mack declared he only rode the LIRR because of his free pass amongst other idiotic ramblings over the last few days. After all of this, the MTA has finally issued a press release concering the free passes. Here is the short press release:

“We believe the policy change regarding use of free passes proposed by Chairman Hemmerdinger and Executive Director/CEO Sander is fair and appropriate and we are optimistic that it will be approved by the MTA Board at next Wednesday’s meeting.”

note: A resolution will be put to vote on Wednesday that rescinds free transportation passes for former board members and restricts current board usage of free passes to official MTA business.

One would think they would have said this days ago….

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Voting Details On The Defeated Bus Camera Bill

Earlier today Ben Fried of Streetsblog posted a report providing an exclusive voting breakdown for the bill that supported the installation of bus-mounted enforcement cameras. Here is Ben’s report courtesy of Streetsblog:

A source sends along this roll call of the State Assembly transportation committee’s vote on bus-mounted enforcement cameras. The names come from the official record; whether the record accurately reflects who raised a hand and who didn’t is not certain, for reasons explained below. Note that the vote was on whether to table the bill, so “Yes” actually means “No” to better bus lane enforcement. You can match names to districts here.

YES: (14)
Gantt, Lafayette, Weisenberg, Hoyt, Perry, DelMonte, Latimer, Lupardo, Alessi, Gabryszak, Hyer-Spencer, Titone, Schimel, Spano.

NO: (11)
Cusick, Millman, R. Diaz, Maisel, McDonough, Thiele, Bacalles, Errigo, Reilich, Giglio, Tobacco.

Among the “Yes” column, Lafayette, Perry, Hyer-Spencer, and Titone represent districts in the five boroughs.

Multiple sources told Streetsblog that the vote was held soon after committee chair David Gnatt called the meeting, at around two in the afternoon. They described a rushed scene in which advocates and legislators were scrambling to make it to the room where the meeting was held. The location of committee meetings is not known, even to legislators, until the chair announces it.

Not everyone on the committee made it in time for the vote. According to parliamentary rules, the votes of absent members are automatically counted as “Yes” votes. There is some time between the committee vote — in this case, a show of hands — and the official recording of the roll call. During this gap, one source told us, legislators can change how their vote is recorded, but the tally of the committee vote cannot be altered.

That clears things up, right?

How sad is it that 4 of the politicians against the bill represent parts of NYC?  It is quite sad in my opinion as if anyone should know how badly these cameras are needed, you would think it would be local politicians. This is just another sad day for riders who depend on buses.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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