MTA Wants NYFD & NYPD To Pay Tolls

We all know the MTA’s finances are in the toilet. They are looking at each & every way to try & bring in extra revenue. The MTA Board feels they have come up with a good idea which calls for the NYFD & NYPD to pay tolls on all official duty travels, which at the current time is waived by the authority. Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has more in his report:

A budget war has broken out between the city and the MTA over bridge and tunnel tolls. The MTA wants the Police, Fire and other city departments to pay tolls now waived by the authority.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board is expected to vote this month on a resolution requiring payments for all official-duty travel, including firefighters responding to fires and police responding to calls for assistance.

“It’s an underhanded attempt to increase the city’s already large subsidy of the MTA by charging the city for responding to emergencies or performing other essential services,” mayoral spokesman Marc La Vorgna said.

Both the MTA and city have budget gaps rooted in the economic downturn highlighted again this week by the collapse of major Wall Street firms. The MTA has been hit hard by lower tax revenues and high fuel prices and is proposing another fare hike for next year.

Click here for the complete report.

This is a very interesting proposal that I can see will get a flame war (no pun intended) going. I see both sides of the issue here as good points can be made for them. On one hand the MTA’s finances are in terrible shape & are at a point that they could be too much to overcome. So if the agency can bring in money on tolls why not waive what is a luxury at the moment.

On the other hand I can understand the point of how this action could be considered dangerous. In the case of an emergency where every second could be the difference between life & death, the time spent dealing with toll payments could easily come into play.

I have to think about this one for a bit before sharing an opinion. I will keep an eye on this battle as I imagine it will make for some interesting times.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Initial Hearing Messages Are The Same But That Is Just Fine

Eleven days ago I posted an entry about the initial 3 Ravitch Commission hearings that have been scheduled. The news was first broke by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Speaking of the TSTC, they were in attendance at the first meeting which took at NYU this past Monday. Here is a small press release about it from the Empire State Transportation Alliance which the TSTC is a member of.

Leading transportation, environmental and labor groups warned today that New York faced major fare hikes, and cuts in transit service and vital repairs unless new City and State aid is raised to address the MTA’s “titanic” financial problems.

The warning came at the first public hearing of the State Commission on MTA Financing. The Commission – appointed by Governor David Paterson and headed by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch – is charged with recommending ways to meet the MTA’s financial needs over the next ten years. Its report is due out by December 5th.

In July, the MTA officially announced major operating deficits in its $6 billion operating budgets for 2009 and 2010. The deficits are caused in large part by declining tax revenues in a bad economy; rising fuel costs; and the impact of years of massive borrowing to finance badly needed repairs.

The agency’s enormous debt has made the MTA the fifth largest debtor in the U.S., behind only three other states and New York City.

The MTA has also proposed cutting $2.7 billion from its five- year, $14.7 billion core capital program – nearly a fifth of its current efforts to bring the subways, buses and commuter lines to a state of good repair. The cuts include rehabilitating 19 fewer subway stations and $336 million in fans to clear smoke in emergencies.

The agency faces a shortfall of more than $17 billion in its 2010-2014 capital program.

Click here for the complete release.

The testimony in Monday’s hearings came from the transit advocates & workers one would expect. The messages delivered were not new & some might be tired of hearing them but until changes are made, they must be repeated. I feel two specific comments summed it up best with the first coming from co-chairman of the Empire State Transportation Alliance, Kevin Corbett:

Failure to make the necessary investments in the critical transportation infrastructure would severely hamper New York’s economic viability. We simply can’t allow this to happen.

The second comment came from executive director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul S. White who said:

The MTA’s problem is clear: The City and State have inadequately funded mass transit for years. The formula for funding mass transportation should be changed.

These two comments are feelings I & many other transit advocates/bloggers have stated for ages now. We all know our system is in dire shape physically. The scary part is as bad of shape as it is in, one could argue it is even in worse shape financially. Think about that for a second & then take in this starling fact posted in the TSTC’s entry I linked to:

The agency’s enormous debt has made the MTA the fifth largest debtor in the U.S., behind only three other states and New York City.

Take a minute or two & just think about that statement. I sat at my desk for a couple of minutes & just let that fact soak in when I first read it. If that statement alone does not get you worried about our transit infrastructure, then you truly don’t give a damn about it & have no right to complain about it.

While it is easy for the masses to blame the MTA for this, it is clearly not just on them. As much as I call them out on their wrongs or rights, they are not the main parties responsible for this. The people responsible are the same elected officials who continue to shortchange the MTA as everything else has to be more important that our transit infrastructure. If it is not those types, it is the officials who say the right things about giving the MTA’s its fair share but when push comes to shove, they run out of bounds a yard or two short of the first down marker or end zone.

The years of financial abuse under the Pataki or more correctly named Paturkey regime have helped lead the MTA to the brink of financial disaster. Now the Ravitch Commission must come up with ways to save the day & even if they come up with ideas, we are not guaranteed to be saved. It seems pretty evident that one of the suggestions will be congestion pricing & we all know that this stands no chance of getting implemented.

Many advocates/bloggers will then start the rally cry that the yet again failed proposal was the answer to our problems & our officials will get blamed again. While I am one of the first to call them out for their purposeful mishandling of MTA funding, this is the one time they would be right. The obsession with the fall back crutch known as congestion pricing needs to end. As I have said for months, all that plan does is become the modern version of “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”. This also would let officials off the hook for their lack of proper funding of our transit infrastructure.

The right thing to do would be to force their hands & have them provide the money they should have all along without passing the buck to fellow commuters albeit via auto instead of mass transit. I sincerely hope that the Ravitch Commission has some aces up their sleeves & are not banking on a fall back crutch. We all know that crutches tend to bend & break easily when put under a lot of pressure or stress. The future of our transit infrastructure is at stake & that is way too much pressure for a fall back crutch or band-aid solution. The time has come for real solutions & real results. If our elected officials can’t finally understand this, then we might be in to deep to make it back.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Rider Report Cards Are Back

One of the biggest topics covered on this blog last year was the “Rider Report Cards” which the MTA, more specifically NYC Transit used as a way to see how riders felt about their specific line. As you recall I brought the best coverage of the report cards from every angle. Well it is time to dust off those pencils & pens or even keyboards & get ready to grade your line as the 2008 Rider Report Cards are on their way. In a press release that was sent to me yesterday morning, NYC Transit discusses this year’s report cards while announcing the 7 train would be the first line graded.

In our continuing effort to solicit feedback from our customers, MTA New York City Transit is again distributing Rider Report Cards throughout the system. Flushing 7 Line riders are the first of NYC Transit’s over 5 million daily subway riders asked to rate the progress of their line since the initial round of report cards was distributed in July, 2007.

The report cards are being distributed to riders during the morning rush hours over four days between today, Tuesday, September 16th and Friday, September 19th. The cards will be handed out at several different stations along the line each day over the four-day period. Grades will be used to identify how much improvement has been identified by 7 Line customers.

Again, the Rider Report Card will ask our subway customers to grade 21 specific areas of service from an A (Excellent) to an F (Unsatisfactory). Among the areas riders will grade include: car and station cleanliness, safety, security, quality of announcements, and the courtesy and helpfulness of front line customer service staff. Riders will also assign an overall grade for 7 service. From this list of 21 service attributes, riders are also going to be asked to rank the top three improvements they would like to see made to the line.

“In distributing the first Rider Report Cards we were seeking to determine a baseline of how our customers viewed our service. Now, we want to determine how far we have come. We have worked hard to improve service and aesthetics and, in the cases of the 7 and L, we restructured the management system to make it more immediately responsive to our riders.” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr.”

The Rider Report Card is once again being distributed in a mailer format, designed to be returned at no cost to the rider. Customers will also have the option of completing the survey on-line, on the MTA website at www.mta.info, where it will be available in 3 languages: English, Spanish and Chinese. From the time the survey begins, riders will have two weeks to mail in their response or to complete the survey online.

Rider Report Card results are posted on line for riders to review once they have been tabulated.

Report cards are being distributed between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. at each station. The schedule for distribution of Rider Report Cards along the 7 line is as follows:

• Today, Tuesday, September 16th – Times Square/42nd Street

• Wednesday, September 17th – 5th Avenue, Grand Central/42nd Street, Vernon Blvd./Jackson Avenue and Hunters Point Avenue

• Thursday, September 18th – 45th Road/Courthouse Square, Queensboro Plaza, 33/Rawson Streets, 40/Lowery Streets, 46/Bliss Streets, 52 Street, Woodside/61 Street, and 69 Street

• Friday, September 19th – 74th Street/Broadway, 82 Street/Jackson Heights, 90 Street/Elmhurst Avenue, Junction Blvd., 103 Street/Corona Plaza, 111 Street, Willets Point/Shea Stadium, and Flushing/Main Street

I urge all readers to let their voices be heard if you really want changes made. I am curious how the grades will come out considering many of the proposed changes have yet to take place due to financial reasons. If I was forced to venture a guess, I think we will see a lot of repeat grades from 2007. The best barometer will be after any & all proposed service changes based on the card’s feedback are in place. This is when we will really see how much things have changed. Either way, I still want all of you to fill out cards for the lines you ride.

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Senator Clinton Goes To Bat For Mass Transit

One of the biggest rallying cries of this blog is for our elected officials on all levels to step up their commitment to funding our mass transit infrastructure. Many say the right things but don’t back them up with actions. Thankfully for residents of the tri-state area, Senator Clinton does not fall in that category. She penned an editorial which appeared in yesterday’s edition of the New York Daily News. Here is her piece:

New York City puts the mass in mass transit. Our rails, buses and subways carry nearly one- third of the nation’s transit passengers. They provide 8.5 million rides each day and more than 2.6 billion rides a year. The system is larger than the next 10 transit systems combined.

Across the country, communities and states are following New York’s lead. Millions of Americans are clamoring for more public transit. In just the second quarter of this year, Americans took more than 2.8 billion trips on public transportation – 140 million more trips than over the same period last year.

As Americans turn to public transportation in greater and greater numbers, the increased demand reveals a transit system that is overstressed and undersized, overflowing and underfunded. As a result, public transportation networks are now being forced to employ stopgap measures to meet surging demand. For example, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority here in the city is exploring a plan to use folding seats on subway cars in order to pack in more riders. Public transit systems across the country are faced with a tough choice: cut service or raise fares.

For our economy, our environment and the people who depend on public transit, neither is an acceptable option.

It’s time to make public transportation a public priority. Public transportation is a win-win-win scenario. Using public transit can save Americans thousands of dollars a year at the gas pump, reduce congestion on our roadways and help us cut our dependence on foreign oil, which hamstrings our security and pollutes our environment.

That is why I’ve introduced legislation that would authorize $1.7 billion in federal funds, including $237 million for New York, to help mass transit systems across the country expand and prepare for the massive rise in commuters. It’s called the Saving Energy through Public Transportation Act, and it would help people who want to switch from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat on commuter trains and buses, subway cars and public transit systems from coast to coast.

But that should only be the beginning. Our crumbling infrastructure constricts our economy and costs us billions in wasted time and fuel. And our failure to invest in infrastructure today is a burden we place on our children and grandchildren. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission estimates that $225 billion each year is required to meet the country’s transportation infrastructure needs. We are investing less than half of that. Every day we fall further behind.

Normally I would link to the editorial after a sample but I felt compelled to share the entire piece. Senator Clinton (who should have been our next President) is spot on with her thoughts on all accounts. Our government needs to seriously invest in our transit infrastructure considering it has been & always will be a viable part of our economy.

A properly funded transit infrastructure will be a guaranteed help to our country in so many ways from the economy to the environment. I can only hope that the clout Senator Clinton carries can help spread this common sense but urgent message to the car obsessed officials currently in power.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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TSTC Wants You To Help Support “ARC”

One of the tri-state area’s leading transit advocates is the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. They recently asked tri-state area residents to contact their local officials to help a bill which would help New Jersey fund its portion of the “ARC” tunnel project. The project would build a second rail tunnel below the Hudson River, connecting New Jersey & Midtown Manhattan. For more information on the project & how you could help support it, you can read their entry by clicking here.

I urge the readers of this blog to look into the project & support the cause for a huge improvement to the tri-state area’s transit infrastructure.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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