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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MTA Think An Underground Reservoir Can Help

Last Tuesday, the New York Daily News featured a story on how the MTA is considering building an underground reservoir. The agency is considering the project in hopes it will help deal with severe flooding which is prone to happening & causing delays on all the Queens Boulevard lines. Here is the article courtesy of the New York Daily News:

Stung by catastrophic subway flooding, the MTA Monday said it may build an underground reservoir in Queens to relieve the seemingly never-ending problem.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority may buy land near the flood-prone Parsons Blvd. subway station on the F line to build holding tanks to store water diverted from the tubes.

“To be honest, when it rains, I take the express bus – it’s a mess down here,” said Margaret Bonair, 45, of Cambria Heights. “It’s about time they did something about the water.”

“Whenever it rains, it’s guaranteed I’m late to work,” added Patrick Goin of Queens, who works in Greenwich Village.

The reservoir idea could be a major step to relieve chronic flooding in the low-lying area, which can cause a domino effect throughout the subway system.

Even though the F train runs through the Parsons Blvd. station, delays on that line can affect the E, R and V trains that run along Queens Blvd. as well.

All those lines were severely affected by the disastrous floods that virtually shut down the subway system on Aug. 8.

MTA spokesman Paul Fleuranges said engineers are still examining several different approaches to easing the flood woes citywide.

The idea was revealed on a day when heavy downpours caused scattered morning rush-hour delays across the system.

Hours after the rain stopped, huge puddles of water collected near the entrance to the Parsons Blvd. station. A dozen bus lines converge on the busy station, making it a major transit hub for southeastern Queens.

“If it’s raining, I don’t even take the train,” said Lavern Moore, 40, a teacher who’s been using the station for 10 years. “You’re asking for trouble.”

The water-storage plan is still in its early stages, and the agency must try to negotiate to buy the land from the owners of two car lots that occupy the site.

I think any idea that could possibly fix the entire problem or most of it in regards to flooding should be looked into. I feel bad for riders who depend on the E, F, G, R, & V along Queens Boulevard when it rains. It has come to the point that any sort of significant rain must strike fear in their hearts since their lines are sure to be delayed or shut down in some way. This is one of the big reasons I do not want to live along those lines in Queens although for the most part the areas are decent to live in. I do wonder is part of the problem out of the MTA’s control. If so, shouldn’t the city foot the bill?

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Stay Tuned

I had a list of entries I had planned to write for the blog. I was able to write out most of them but I must get some rest before taking care of some business. Look for a few more entries later today including ones about the MTA’s attempt to deal with flooding along the Queens Blvd lines as well as the heroes who were honored by the MTA.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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