MTA Vice Chairman Opposes The Fare Hike

I don’t know if I should consider this a surprise or a PR move to cover one owns ass but MTA Vice Chairman Andrew Saul has publicly announced his opposition to the proposed fare hike. As I am sure you recall, Mr. Saul was one of the 3 board members who missed every single public hearing on the proposed fare hikes. Here is a complete article on Mr. Saul’s views courtesy of New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue:

The Halt the Hike campaign got a big boost Friday when a key MTA board member changed course and came out against fare increases.

“I am against this fare hike proposal,” board Vice Chairman Andrew Saul declared. “A fare increase is always a hardship and the last option I consider to cover budget shortfalls.”

Instead of seeking higher fares from millions of daily subway, bus and commuter train riders, Saul – who also heads the board’s finance committee – said he would continue to pursue savings within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

He also pledged support to lawmakers seeking more mass transit funding from Gov. Spitzer and the state Legislature. Spitzer unveils his first budget and the Legislature reconvenes in January.

State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) welcomed Saul on board the campaign to keep fares and tolls stable.

“The momentum is shifting, there’s no question about that,” Brodsky said.

Saul is the third MTA board member to voice opposition to increases that were proposed earlier this year by Spitzer’s transit chief, MTA CEO Elliot Sander, and Sander’s top deputies.

The board has 16 voting members, including three suburban representatives who share one vote. Mayor Bloomberg has four reps that traditionally vote as a bloc.

Bloomberg hasn’t embraced the proposal but hasn’t rejected it either. The board will vote on a 2008 budget next month.

Brodsky and approximately 100 state legislators have urged the MTA to at least delay possible implementation to April from February, providing more time for them to seek more funds in Albany.

If they succeed, riders could be spared the third round of increases since 2003.

Director of a nationwide chain of clothing stores, Saul is one of several board members appointed by former Gov. George Pataki. The Republican also has launched a campaign for a Democrat-held congressional seat.

Though Saul recently told the Daily News he wouldn’t support delaying the fare hike, he insisted yesterday he never intended to vote for the hike.

“Although the state Legislature has historically been unable to come up with the funding we needed to avoid fare increases, I am hopeful that this time they will be successful,” he said.

The MTA has a large surplus but expects huge deficits in 2009.

While it is nice to hear one of the higher ranking officials oppose the fare hike, I do question the sincerity behind his position. The timing of the announcement raises eyebrows considering the criticism he & the other 2 board members received from all levels of the media including such blogs as this one. This would not be the first or last time I will question someone’s true motive but can you blame me, this is the MTA we are talking about. The agency has perfected the art of lying to people right in their face without blinking an eye. If Mr. Saul is honestly against the proposed fare hike, then these last few weeks until the vote shall prove to be even more interesting if that is even possible!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Port Authority’s Bridge & Tunnel Fare Hike Revealed

This past Friday, the Port Authority released its plans to increase bridge & tunnel tolls along with the fare of PATH trains. The plan calls for a 33% increase in tolls for drivers driving from New Jersey to New York. Their plan would see the rush hour costs on its six bridges & tunnels that link New York & New Jersey rise to $8. Their plan calls for PATH fares to go from $1.5o to $2.00. They said the increase is needed to help build a train tunnel to encourage mass transit use & environmentally friendly driving. Here is a full article about the plan courtesy of Newsday:

Transit officials unveiled a widely anticipated plan to increase tolls by 33 percent for drivers going from New Jersey to New York, saying the proposal will help build a crucial train tunnel and encourage mass transit and environmentally friendly driving.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns six bridges and tunnels linking New Jersey to New York City, wants to raise rush-hour tolls on the crossings from $6 to $8, and increase fares on PATH commuter trains from $1.50 to $2.

More than 120 million drivers cross Port Authority bridges and tunnels from New Jersey to New York City each year, and about 227,000 passengers take PATH trains every day.

The increases would take effect next year if approved; public hearings are planned first.

The agency’s executive director, Anthony Shorris, said the first toll increases since 2001 would fund billions of dollars in capital plans, from stabilizing bridges to rebuilding the World Trade Center site.

But the agency that has always taken in more revenue from cars seemed focused on train travel, upping its commitment from $2 billion to $3 billion for a second tunnel taking rail commuters under the Hudson River between the states. Shorris said the agency’s commitment to the tunnel, which would accommodate NJ Transit and Amtrak trains, should trigger federal funding of the $7.5 billion connection.

An updated, 10-year capital plan budgeted more than $3 billion to revamp the underused PATH train lines, lengthen platforms, buy new cars and boost security measures like baggage checks on trains.

“The … biggest threat to our region is whether we can manage growth,” said Shorris, who expected some toll increases would move motorists onto public transportation, while others might decide to drive during less congested times.

The proposal would charge motorists $8 during rush hours – even for E-ZPass users who currently get discounts at all times – at the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and bridges including the George Washington, Goethals, Bayonne and Outerbridge Crossing. The peak hours include a period from noon to 8 p.m. on the weekends. Truck and bus prices would vary, depending on the size of the vehicle.

E-ZPass drivers would pay $6 during less congested times; drivers using low-emission, environmentally friendly vehicles would pay only $4 off-peak, an incentive the Port Authority hoped would help it reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent next year.

Drivers would end up having to subsidize mass transit and rebuilding projects if the hike passes, said Stephen Carrellas, New Jersey’s coordinator for the National Motorists’ Association.

I bet many drivers who thumb their noses at mass transit must be pissed!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Grade Crossing In Mineola To Soon Be Gone Forever

The dangerous rail grade crossing located on Roslyn Road in Mineola will soon be gone forever. This comes as great news to many who know how dangerous this crossing is. The grade crossing is no stranger to near or actual tragedies as many probably remember how 37 year old Michael Artale was struck and killed by a LIRR train after walking around the gates. A near tragedy occurred recently when a woman mistook the LIRR tracks as a road & started to drive down them before getting rescued seconds before a train hit & destroyed her car.

Here is an article about the plans to remove the grade crossing courtesy of Newsday:

More than a decade before 37-year-old Michael Artale was struck and killed by a train after he walked around the lowered gates at Roslyn Road, state officials had talked about eliminating the Mineola grade crossing.

Now, nearly a decade later, work to eliminate the crossing is well under way and should be complete by this summer, state officials said.

“Why it took so long ticks me off,” said Robert Kessler of Mineola, a friend of Artale’s. “It would have saved his life.”

Just last Thursday, the crossing nearly claimed another life when a 63-year-old Floral Park woman accidentally drove onto the tracks. She was pulled from her car just moments before it was crushed by a westbound Long Island Rail Road train.

Eliminating a grade crossing is neither cheap nor easy. The Mineola project has a price tag of $24.3 million, and the work itself has been a massive undertaking, state officials said, requiring excavation under existing tracks for a new roadway and the installation of a 365-ton steel railroad bridge.

While it’s illegal to walk or drive around lowered gates at grade crossings, dozens who have done so have died or been injured all across Long Island in the past decade.

State officials said the project will eliminate such dangers at the site and improve traffic on Roslyn Road. Approximately 200 LIRR trains and 16,000 vehicles pass through the intersection each day, officials said.

Barbara Bodner, who has lived near the grade crossing for the past seven years, said vehicle traffic has gotten worse, sometimes backing up four blocks to Westbury Avenue.

“When I first moved in they were talking about it,” she said. “I’ve seen people walk across when the gates are down.”

The new roadway under the bridge is scheduled to open at Roslyn Road by the end of next month, state officials said. The entire project, which includes removing crossing gates and adding sidewalks, drainage work and landscaping, is to be complete by summer.

In 1998, the Herricks Road crossing in Mineola – once called the most dangerous at-grade crossing in America by the National Transportation Safety Board – was eliminated. In 1982, an accident there killed nine teenagers.

According to the LIRR, although the new bridge over Roslyn Road includes space for a third track, which the railroad said is needed to expand capacity on the main line, the elimination of the grade crossing is not part of the third track project.

LIRR officials said that project could lead to the elimination of up to five other grade crossings in Westbury and New Hyde Park.

This grade crossing should have been removed years ago if you ask me. The completion of this project can not come soon enough!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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DOT & MTA Hope To Ease Holiday Gridlock

This past Thursday AMNY ran a brief article about the Department Of Transportation (DOT) & the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)  implementing an anti-gridlock plan starting later this month. Here is the brief article courtesy of AMNY:

To prevent holiday traffic meltdowns, the Department of Transportation and the MTA will implement an anti-gridlock plan later this month, officials announced Thursday.

The agencies are asking commuters to hop out of their cars and use mass transit on the following dates: Nov. 16, 21, 28 and Dec. 7, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21.

To accommodate extra straphangers, New York City Transit is ramping up service on Thanksgiving on the No. 1 train and 42nd Street shuttle for riders heading to the parade.

Additional service on the E, F, Q, and Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 6 lines also will be running on weekends between Dec. 8 and 23. Weekend subway construction and upgrade work will be scaled back during the holidays.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also offering MetroCard deals for specific events. For more details check mta.info/metrocard.

And as a present to history buffs, vintage trains will roll on some lines from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays in December. Transit officials said details will be released later.

Leave it to these two agencies to announce that a plan will be announced later. What a waste……… although the vintage train appearances should be a welcome site to many railfans such as myself.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Should We Be Surprised?

I know I’m not when New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue broke the news that three MTA board members skipped every public hearing on proposed fare and toll hikes. Here is the entire article courtesy of the New York Daily News:

Three MTA board members are total truants; they skipped every public hearing on proposed fare and toll hikes.

Andrew Saul, Donald Cecil and Susan Metzger failed to attend any of eight public hearings the Metropolitan Transportation Authority held during the past 10 days.

Some board members attended only one hearing, including Nancy Shevell, who didn’t show up at sessions held after her relationship with Paul McCartney became public.

Millions of daily subway, bus and commuter train riders will pay more if the increases are approved by the board next month. Drivers using MTA bridges and tunnels also would be affected.

“Membership on the MTA board is a privilege, not a right, with awesome responsibilities,” fumed state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens). “Members who can’t drag themselves to even one fare hike hearing to face the riding public not only shouldn’t be allowed to vote for a fare hike, they shouldn’t be on the board at all.”

Metzger, of Orange County, Wednesday vowed to review hearing transcripts.

She was out of the country last week on a vacation she and her husband starting planning more than a year ago, she said. Saul and Cecil didn’t return messages.

Saul, the CEO of a women’s apparel company, is a board vice chairman and head of the finance committee who regularly attends monthly meetings at MTA headquarters.

Saul also is a candidate in next fall’s Republican primary in the 19th Congressional District. It encompasses Putnam County and parts of Dutchess, Orange, Rockland and Westchester counties.

More than 100 state legislators have urged the MTA to delay to mid-April the hikes, set to take effect in February.

They hope to get Gov. Spitzer and their colleagues to give more funds to the MTA so riders are spared.

Before the hearings, Saul told the Daily News he would oppose a delay because Albany couldn’t be counted on to provide additional funds.

Wednesday, he released a statement indicating he might have a change of heart.

“I have never said that I was in favor of an MTA fare increase at this time,” he said, adding he would at the very least “review all viable options that allow the MTA to continue improving and providing services to its riders in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Cecil is chairman of the Westchester County Board of Transportation.

A founding partner of a large investment management company, he has been active in several charities and established a scholarship fund for low-income Westchester County students.

Metzger formerly owned an engineering company, heads the Orange County Planning Board and has been active in environmental issues.

I agree 100% with Queens Democratic State Assemblyman Rory Lancman, maybe these three should not be on the board. I will cut a tad bit of slack if the vacation was legitimate. One can’t just reschedule planned vacations like that on a whim. However the other two seem to have absolutely NO excuse for missing all of the hearings. I could see maybe one or two as things happen but every single one!

The lack of attention from these individuals on such hearings just underscores why the MTA is not liked by many especially the majority of the riding public. How can they not expect to think that the bigwigs at the MTA have no idea how to relate to the working class who depends on the system day in & day out.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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