Credit Crunch Could Possibly Make MTA Debts Skyrocket

The biggest news in the country if the world is the economic woes that have sent shock waves from Main Street to Wall Street. While the focus has been on banks, financial institutions, & such, they are not the only ones who are facing bleak times if things don’t improve. The MTA which is already in enough of a financial mess as it is, finds itself facing the possibility of the skyrocketing interest rates causing their debt payments to by tens of millions of dollars per year. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has more in this report:

Skyrocketing interest rates caused by the Wall Street meltdown could raise the MTA’s annual payments by tens of millions of dollars above what was anticipated in its budget plans, experts told the Daily News.

The latest financial headache for the debt-heavy Metropolitan Transportation Authority comes as the authority faces a huge 2009 budget gap and is trying to avoid service cuts.

“The potential impact could be significant,” one expert said.

The best-case scenario would be for government bailout efforts to free up credit and lower interest rates soon.

“If that happens soon – very soon – our budget target for interest cost has a prayer of being met,” said Doreen Frasca, chairwoman of the MTA’s transit committee and the founder of a financial services firm.

In response to an inquiry by The News, the MTA released a statement yesterday stating it is “closely monitoring the credit market in this difficult time. The situation is in such flux that the full impact on our bottom line cannot yet be assessed.”

Click here for the complete report.

This news is terrible for the MTA in a time where such news has become the norm. While the chances of bankruptcy occurring are low, the possibility can not be ruled out if the creditors start to seek their money back in the near future. However that is a real longshot at this point but it illustrates the trying times the agency is currently in.

I personally did not support the bailout plan which rescued many companies who put themselves in their death bed with choices made by greed. While the MTA is no poster child for financial responsibility, the lack of adequate funding from all levels of government is a strong reason why they are in the position they are. Would the government bail them or any other transit agency out? The answer is most likely no & while that comes as no surprise, it still is a crying shame.

Will we ever see the day when government of all levels realizes how an adequately funded & financially stable mass transit infrastructure s is not a luxury but an absolute necessity? Such infrastructures do everyone good from Main Street to Wall Street & should be treated as such. The day they are treated the way they should be is the day our country truly will take a step in the right direction.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Elected Officials To Meet With Railroad Retirement Board Officials

Just a short while ago it was announced that some elected officials, such as New York Senators Chuck Schumer & Hillary Clinton, would have a meeting in Manhattan with officials from the Railroad Retirement Board. Frank A. Castillo of Newsday has more in this report:

Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Timothy Bishop and representatives of Sen. Hillary Clinton are expected to meet Friday in Manhattan with members of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, the agency criticized for granting disability benefits to nearly all railroad workers who apply for them — including an unusually large number of Long Island Rail Road retirees.

Schumer (D-N.Y.), Clinton (D-N.Y.), Bishop (D- Southampton) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have joined in drafting a letter to the retirement board, seeking answers to why the number of LIRR employees applying for benefits are “far exceeding what one would expect” and what role doctors and “facilitators” have in preparing workers’ applications.

Click here for the complete article.

This meeting should prove quite interesting & I can’t wait to hear what developments come from it. As always I will post about it as soon as possible.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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More Subpoenas Issued In LIRR Disability Benefits Scandal

The subpoena hammer continues to come down as after the office of NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo confirmed that 5 doctors were subpoenaed, word has come out that 4 insurance companies are being subpoenaed. Frank Eltman of the Associated Press filed this brief report:

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office has confirmed it is issuing subpoenas to five doctors involved in the review process for Long Island Rail Road disability claims.

Cuomo is leading one of four separate investigations into revelations that more than 90 percent of Long Island Rail Road retirees have been granted disability payments by an obscure federal board, allowing them to collect huge payments every year.

Subpoenas also have been issued to four insurance companies that sold LIRR employees private disability policies.

Reviews also have been started by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and the inspectors general of the Railroad Retirement Board and the

Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the LIRR’s parent agency.

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State Investigators Subpoena 5 Doctors In LIRR Disability Scandal

The news just continues to come out in regards to the huge Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Disability Benefits Scandal. The latest comes from Alfonso A. Castillo & Robert Kessler of Newsday whose report says a source closed to the investigation revealed that 5 doctors were subpoenaed due to having examined many LIRR workers:

State investigators probing potential abuses of a federal disability pension system by Long Island Rail Road employees have issued subpoenas for five doctors on Long Island and in Queens who examined high numbers of LIRR workers, a source close to the investigation said Wednesday.

The physicians “had a significant number of patients who were receiving benefits — a significant enough number to make one want to inspect closer,” the source said.

While the subpoenas have been issued, not all had been served yesterday, the source said.

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is “investigating the roles of doctors” as part of his office’s ongoing investigation into possible abuses of the railroad retirement system, spokesman Alex Detrick said yesterday.

Click here for the complete report.

More on this as it comes in.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Transit Employee Impersonator Busted Yet Again!

p>Darius McCollum being taken out of the 59th St-Columbus Circle station in June.

Darius McCollum being taken out of the 59th St.-Columbus Circle station by cops. Photo courtesy of Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

If you are any sort of tri-state area transit buff or just keep up on news, you know who Darius McCollum is. For those who do not know him, he is the infamous individual who has been arrested many times for impersonating transit officials. Some of his antics have included impersonating a motorman in 1981 at the age of 15. During this encounter, he drove a downtown E filled with unknowing passengers from 34th Street-Penn Station to the World Trade Center. He was busted back in June for entering a restricted area of the 59th Street-Columbus Circle Station.

This time he was busted over the weekend on a Babylon bound LIRR train as he impersonated a federal agent. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has more in this report:

A train buff with a long track record – that includes taking a subway train for a joyride – has been arrested for impersonating a federal agent, police said Monday.

Darius McCollum, 43, flashed a bogus badge and a forged ID card to a Long Island Rail Road conductor after boarding a train in Penn Station on Sunday night, Metropolitan Transportation Authority police said.

Prior to Sunday, McCollum had been arrested 25 times for pretending to be a transit worker.

“I’m not surprised,” McCollum’s weary-sounding mother, Elizabeth, said of the latest arrest after being reached Monday in North Carolina.

McCollum in recent years has been living in North Carolina, but he ignored his mother’s warnings and took a bus back to the city Sunday, she said.

“He’s a lover of New York and can’t get over it,” she said.

McCollum’s first run-in with the law came in 1981, when he assumed the role – and duties – of a subway motorman.

Click here for the complete article.

Like I said back in June, jail is not the answer for Darius. While I am not condoning his actions, it is clear he has some medical issues which can’t be solved behind bars. It is a shame that he could not be considered for a position with the MTA has he clearly has shown no intention to do anything damaging. He obviously has a passion which has led to making incorrect decisions but not in the way of purposely trying to hurt someone. I don’t know what can be done for him as he seems to have very little options left. Such a shame……..

xoxo Transit Blogger

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