Riders Speak Out Against The MTA’s Recent Proposal

Sticking with news from over the weekend, riders have come out against the MTA’s proposal to eliminate elevator operators. Here is the article courtesy of the New York Daily News:

Straphangers said they feel shafted by the MTA’s proposal to remove operators from subway system elevators.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to transfer the workers from the five manned elevators as part of its cost-cutting proposal.

The manned elevators are at the 191st, 181st and 168th St. stations on the 1 line and 190th and 181st St. stations on the A line.

“I won’t even get into an elevator if there’s not an operator in it,” said Maria Trevino, 54, a home attendant who said she has been stuck in an elevator at the 181st St. station.

“If it stops, people panic, people get respiratory problems, they think they’re going to die. You need somebody there with you to calm them down.”

Other passengers said safety was a concern.

“If someone strange comes in, you want someone there with you,” said student Jennifer Cerda, riding the 168th St. lift yesterday.

“They also control crowds of people,” said Kathy Corbera, a 60-year-old doctor at 168th St.

“You get long lines of people stretching down the corridor onto the platform. You need someone to direct those crowds, and people respond to authority.”

The elevators are manned in stations so deep that taking the staircase is not an option. They are usually operated by MTA employees with disabilities, staff said yesterday.

“I expect we’d be transferred into other nonstrenuous jobs,” said Claude Herbert, 70, who has an injured knee and operates the 181st. St. elevator.

“I don’t know what else I could do.”

This really is a tough call as I said in a prior entry, I can see both sides of the issue. The safety issue is definitely a legitimate one when it comes to riding these specific elevators. The crowd control is also a big issue considering how out of control it would be if no operator was present. However I can also see where the MTA can save much needed money. Quite frankly I think it would be fair for the MTA to look at possible cuts in other areas before going through with this proposal. I am sure they can find plenty of other areas where they can save the same amount of money if not more.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Plans To Eliminate Program & Safety Workers

The New York Daily News is still going strong with their “Halt The Hike” campaign. Saturday’s edition of the paper featured an article on the MTA’s plan to eliminate a subway evacuation program along with safety workers. Here is the article courtesy of the New York Daily News as part of their “Halt The Hike” campaign:

The MTA is eliminating a program to help subway riders evacuate in emergencies and closing several token booths – at the same time it is pushing for higher fares.

After the 2005 London subway bombings, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority placed approximately 100 workers in stations to usher riders to safety if needed.

The posts at 20 key hubs are no longer needed because NYC Transit – the MTA’s bus and subway division – has improved subway station exits throughout the system, managers claim.

“Panic bars” have been installed on locked swinging-door gates that lead to sidewalk stairwells.

Riders can unlock the gates themselves and no longer need token booth clerks to open them up, NYC Transit spokesman Charles Seaton said.

The upgrades “add a significant amount of exiting capacity to the system,” he added.

Councilman Peter Vallone, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, accused the MTA of “jeopardizing the lives of their riders” by taking the extra workers from stations.

He added that the safety workers are still needed because riders could be slowed by ceiling-to-floor revolving door turnstiles.

The elimination of the posts are part of the MTA’s preliminary 2008 budget, which has come under fire because it calls for imposing higher fares and tolls next year.

Eliminating the “heightened security coverage” will save the MTA $6.5 million next year, according to the proposed budget.

Closing four booths at three Manhattan stations, and eliminating 11 clerk positions, will save more than $730,000, according to the plan.

Critics contend the MTA can do a much better job of finding fat that can and should be cut.

All told, the MTA’s “Program to Eliminate the Gap” for next year calls for $50 million in savings, including not filling some vacancies or leaving posts unfilled. That’s less than one-half of 1% of the $10.8 billion budget plan.

“It is important for the MTA to continue to explore opportunities to reduce its spending and limit costs without adversely affecting services,” said state Controller Thomas DiNapoli.

This might come as a surprise to some but I am not against the elimination of this program & its safety workers. In a time where the MTA is desperate for cash, I see this program as a waste. I know some will say what about emergencies or bring up the biggest fall back crutch of all time 9/11, I say to them sit down & think for a minute.

Can you really justify the costs of this program along with the employees involved with it? Why should should the MTA spend millions of dollars for this when it can be spent better elsewhere? Do we really need to have a dedicated amount of workers to help in case of an emergency? Why can’t the current fleet of personnel working on the bus & train do the job?

If you sit down & think about it, emergency situations should be a legitimate part of their job description. They are the first line of defense & should be trained as such. Instead of spending money on wasteful posts, spend the money elsewhere for legitimate projects such as increased training to the personnel who are our first line of defense. If you properly train the current personnel who are the first line of defense in all aspects of emergency protocols, you not only make things safer for all riders, you also save money on needless jobs. Last I check wasn’t the MTA spending money on extended training for current personnel anyway?

We are in a new world when it comes to the MTA & its finances, here is one plan that showcases a vision to better maximize available resources while saving money. Instead of automatically saying no, this is a bad idea or championing against it to score points with your constituents, look at the bigger picture & understand how this is actually a good idea. Will it cure all of their financial woes? No, it won’t but it can be a good start & hopefully it will get better as we move forward.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA’s Proposed Budget Shows A 43% Increase!

According to an article in this past Friday’s Daily News, the MTA’s proposed budget for 2008 will feature a 43% increase in spending compared to the 2004 budget. Here is the entire article courtesy of the New York Daily News as part of their “Halt The Hike” campaign:

Spending by the fare-hike-minded MTA is on track to soar 43% over the 2004 budget, authority fiscal documents show.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed budget for next year totals $10.8 billion, up from $7.5 billion just four years ago.

Currently, the MTA wants fares and toll hikes to trim future budget gaps that transit officials and rider advocates agree primarily stem from years of inadequate state funding. The MTA borrowed heavily and its debt payments have nearly doubled.

But some also call the MTA a willing victim that failed to aggressively seek more operating budget funds from the governor and state Legislature, and also has been inefficient.

“When the MTA leadership allowed former Gov. Pataki to saddle the system with excessive debt, they effectively steered the MTA budget train off the tracks,” said James Parrott, Fiscal Policy Institute deputy director.

State Controller Thomas DiNapoli pointed at in-depth reviews by his office that highlighted where the MTA could achieve savings by trimming its workforce and consolidating operations. The authority’s divisions, including NYC Transit and two railroads, each have their own departments for legal, payroll, purchasing and other duties.

A Daily News review of the 2004 and proposed 2008 budgets found the following spending increases: debt service up $681 million, or 80%; payroll up $796 million, 24%; overtime $90 million, 25%; professional service contracts, often consultants, up $60 million, or 33%.

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said that “uncontrollable costs” such as debt payments, pensions and worker health care, had increased by 73%.

The manageable costs, such as salaries and wages, rose a combined 29%.

“Expenses under the MTA’s control have been kept close to inflation and are driven by contractual wage increases and improved service, post-9/11 security costs and increased maintenance,” Soffin said.

The MTA had 63,300 workers in 2004. The number of positions in the proposed budget for next year is 70,369.

Soffin said about half the additional positions are held by workers employed by the MTA Bus Co., which comprises seven formerly private bus companies.

The MTA board votes on the budget, including Gov. Spitzer’s fare hike plan, next month.

Not even the biggest fans of the MTA can deny that they are partially their own worst enemy. Actually a more accurate statement might be they are mostly to blame for the financial state they are in. I don’t think I have ever seen an agency get raped financially by the government like the MTA does. The sad part is for the last 10+ years they seemed to willingly participate in the festivities as a willing participant. Thankfully we have some new blood looking to put an end to this culture although they sure not given a nice hand to start with.

Speaking of fans or should I say non fans, I caught the comment left in the feedback section on the Daily News’ page for this article. The reader who goes by “Calico” sure gave a piece of his mind. Take a look at his response to the article:

So when is MTA going to stop mismanaging public funds? When is MTA going to scrutinize what they pay for ($8 for a black plastic garbage bag, $8 for a 100 watt bulb). When is MTA going to stop paying for the purchase of defective and faulty equipment that has to be dismantled, repaired and reassembled at the taxpayers’ expense?

When is MTA going to pay the same as other cities for the aluminum frames that hold the bus window glass? Right now, NYC MTA pays about $150 for the same aluminum window frames that other cities pay about $39 to $49 for… WHY? Doesn’t anyone scrutinize and question what MTA is being billed for and compare prices? Why are there so many petty supervisors and managers riding around in City paid limos? Shall I continue…?

I would love to read more from this individual as they definitely have some strong comments about the MTA.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Can Mayor Bloomberg Stop The Fare Hike?

According to an article in this past Thursday’s Daily News, he can. Here is the article courtesy of the New York Daily News as a part of their “Halt The Hike” campaign:

Mayor Bloomberg could halt the hike.

With just three weeks to go before the MTA board votes on fare and toll increases, the balance of power could shift to City Hall from Albany, sources told the Daily News.

The mayor controls four of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board’s 14 votes, but has not said where he stands.

“The mayor seems to be undecided, so it would make sense for the governor and MTA to start courting the mayor and his board members,” a source close to City Hall said.

Three voting board members, Andrew Saul, Mitchell Pally and Norman Seabrook, are against the hike. If joined by Bloomberg’s bloc, fare and toll hikes would be just one vote shy of being derailed.

“It comes down to the mayor,” board member Barry Feinstein said. Just yesterday, mayoral reps told Feinstein they hadn’t yet made a decision. “That means they are still gathering information.”

Several members have not taken a firm stand and appear to be in play. The board vote is scheduled for Dec. 19. “I think the mayor hasn’t been convinced that this needs to be done at this time,” Seabrook said.

Whether the MTA is being as efficient as possible will be a key factor in the mayor’s decision process, the mayor has repeatedly said. Gov. Spitzer and his top transit chief, MTA CEO Elliot Sander, last week announced a modified fare-hike plan. The $2 base subway-bus fare would remain stable through 2009.

About $360 million would be raised over the next two years by higher prices for multiride MetroCards and Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) tickets. Tolls on the MTA’s nine bridges and tunnels would also rise, but numbers have yet to be hashed out.

The MTA will end this year with a surplus greater than $500million and can balance next year’s budget without fare and toll hikes, according to MTA officials and budget plans.

Sander said increases are necessary because the authority expects large deficits in 2009 and subsequent years.

There are 16 voting positions on the board. One seat is vacant, and the members representing Orange, Dutchess and Rockland counties share one vote.

Spitzer has six representatives, but five were chosen or reappointed by former Gov. George Pataki: Saul, Seabrook, Feinstein, Francis Powers and Nancy Shevell, who’s been in the headlines for dating Beatle Paul McCartney.

Shevell, Powers, David Mack, Donald Cecil and Susan Metzger have not taken a stand.

Spitzer installed MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger earlier this year, and he would cast a second tie-breaking vote. The mayor’s representatives are John Banks, a Con Edison vice president; Mark Lebow, partner of a law firm; Jeff Kay, Bloomberg’s director of operations, and Mark Page, the city budget director.

At this point I like many others expect some sort of a fare hike to go through. Seriously I would fully support a fare hike if the MTA fully disclosed their financial books & fully explained with proof why they need a fare hike. If they could do this, get the money they deserve from the government, & still needed cash legitimately, I would support the hike.  We all know that something as to give as all these major projects like the 7 Line Extension, East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, etc… are not going to get done for free. If anyone can get to the bottom of this, I think Mayor Bloomberg can. Hopefully he will get the job done & have his representatives vote for what is the needed choice.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Honor Heroic Couple

Last month I wrote about an amazing heroic couple who saved a 63 year woman from being crushed by an oncoming Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train. Well the heroic couple is back in the news as the MTA honored Anthony LoCicero (Franklin Square Fire Chief) & his wife Randi (NYPD Officer) at a board meeting last Wednesday. Here is an article about the MTA honoring the heroic couple courtesy of Newsday:

Praising the heroism of two off-duty first responders who “jumped into action” and risked their own lives, the head of the MTA credited the couple and a quick-thinking civilian yesterday for saving a Queens woman from certain death at a Mineola grade crossing earlier this month.

Franklin Square Fire Chief Anthony LoCicero and his wife Randi, a New York City police officer, were singled out along with Commack resident Jennifer Freiermuth.

“It is an honor to present you three heroes with these three tokens of our recognition,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Elliot Sander said, giving plaques and certificates to the trio at a board meeting in Manhattan.

Freiermuth said she called 911 and flagged the couple down inside their vehicle when she noticed a car stuck on the tracks at the Roslyn Road grade crossing on Nov. 8.

A Floral Park woman, 63, had turned onto the tracks, thinking she was driving onto a street.

Within what Anthony LoCicero said was just nine seconds, they radioed for help, ran to the tracks and pulled the woman from her Buick just before it was demolished by an oncoming westbound train – the 4:46 p.m. from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station.

“If they weren’t there, I don’t know what would have happened,” Freiermuth said.

The LoCiceros, who have been invited to ceremonies honoring them at Islanders and Knicks games, said they’re a bit taken aback by all the attention.

“I’m a low-key person,” Anthony LoCicero said. “I really don’t like to be in the spotlight.”

“It’s overwhelming,” his wife added.

Freiermuth said the LoCiceros deserve the attention. She added that she’s surprised – and a bit disheartened – that no one else there that night made efforts to get help for the woman on the tracks.

“I don’t feel like a hero,” she said. “I feel like that’s something anyone should have done.”

The car’s license plate is registered to Patricia Rech, 63, of Floral Park. She has not been available for comment since the incident and efforts to reach her yesterday were not successful.

I am glad that the couple got honored for their heroics. It takes special people willing to risk their lives to save another life. I do have one question though, is Patricia still mad that they did not rescue her pocketbook?

xoxo Transit Blogger

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