Proposed Budget Means More Of The Same For Long Island Bus

The long standing trend of local government shortchanging the MTA in terms of funding continues. This time we will focus on Nassau County which has a history of shortchanging Long Island Bus way before the MTA took over. The latest shortchanging comes from Nassau County’s 2009 proposed budget. The proposal calls for the county’s subsidy to be $10.5 million dollars.

If this budget & more specifically subsidy is approved, it will mark the 5th consecutive year that the county would only kick in $10.5 million dollars, this as ridership has grown during the same time period. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Senior Planner Ryan Lynch has more in his entry:

Although Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi’s Proposed 2009 Budget Summary includes a property tax hike of 3.9% for the next fiscal year, none of that will be dedicated to increased funding for Long Island Bus. That’s because it was more of the same when it came to the County’s responsibility for funding the nation’s largest suburban bus system. If the budget is passed as proposed, Nassau’s subsidy to LI Bus will remain $10.5 million for the fifth year in a row

Click here for the complete entry.

The lack of funding for such an important cog to our transportation infrastructure is downright inexcusable although not surprising. Public transportation is something that has always been looked down upon & not being as important in Long Island. I speak from experience in having lived out here for years in the past & now again.

I honestly don’t see the lack of regard for transportation changing especially in terms of getting adequate funding for it. The only way the culture of disdain can be extinguished is to get new blood in office. However it is not easy when the constituents you tend to are mostly those who share in the culture of disdain to begin with.

Lets say if I ran for public office out here, do you really think I would pull out a victory being known as a huge supporter for better transportation options that do not include personal vehicles? The answer is no, so you can see how the lack of adequate funding for service that desperately could use it should come as no surprise to anyone. How sad……….

xoxo Transit Blogger

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How The MTA Was Yet Again Their Own Worst Enemy

Amidst of all the LIRR drama along with talks of hypothetical cuts was the story of the MTA getting price gouged on bus fuel as part of a new contract extension with its long running supplier Sprague Energy Corporation. Now word as come out that some officials saw this price gouge coming a mile away & warned their fellow officials to change course or else. As usual with the MTA, instead of adhering to this great advice, they chose to stay the course & show why they continue to be their own worst enemy. The New York Times’ William Neuman has more in this report:

Five years ago, as they were signing a contract for a cleaner-burning bus fuel, some officials with New York City Transit foresaw the day when similar low-sulfur fuels might become more common and less expensive.

That fuel was custom-made, and over the last two years, fuel suppliers warned transit officials that it might become difficult to get and urged them to consider a cheaper alternative.

But the transit agency never switched.

So last month, it found itself caught off guard when there were no bidders for a new fuel contract. As a result, it rushed through a stopgap agreement with its previous supplier at a much higher price.

The tale of how officials signed a contract that increases the fuel costs for their bus fleet by what could be tens of millions of dollars over the next year, at a time of budgetary crisis, helps show how well-intentioned efforts can go awry and end up affecting riders.

The custom-made fuel costs about 20 cents a gallon more than the more common ultra-low sulfur diesel that suppliers recommended. The fuel also requires special handling that in the new contract adds about 45 cents a gallon to delivery charges. On 50 million gallons of fuel to be delivered over the next 12 months, the extra costs represent an additional expense of more than $30 million.

Click here for the complete report.

Leave it to the MTA to be the one holding the gun to its own head time after time…

xoxo Transit Blogger

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City Hall Bigwig Feels The MTA’s Decision Was Ill-Advised

Yesterday was a rough day in a relationship between the city & MTA that would never be confused as being healthy to begin with. The latest rough patch stems from the MTA Board approving a measure to start charging government agencies like the NYFD, NYPD, Parks Department, etc… tolls for using its bridges & tunnels. One City Hall bigwig more specifically City budget director Mark Page said the MTA’s decision was “ill-advised”. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has more in this report:

he MTA may regret revoking the city’s free E-ZPasses, a City Hall bigwig warned as the move was ratified Wednesday.

City budget director Mark Page called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s money-generating initiative “ill-advised” as the city and MTA have a complex financial relationship, with several big-ticket items in dispute.

“I think … an ill will arising from this proposal is probably more expensive – in terms of the likelihood of coming together on the extremely important issues that face all of us – than it is worth,” Page said.

Page is one of Mayor Bloomberg’s four MTA board appointees. His comments came just before the board voted, 7 to 6, to bill city departments for bridge and tunnel trips.

Those departments include the mayor’s office, the mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the Sanitation, Police, Fire and Parks departments.

The policy change also affects some state and local agencies and will raise some $10 million for the MTA as it tries to close looming budget gaps.

Click here for the complete report.

This story to me is more than just the MTA trying to raise money by collecting tolls from local government agencies. The fact that the MTA’s decision to collect these tolls is considered an “ill-advised” idea just illustrates part of what is wrong in the big picture.

The MTA is clearly in a state of financial crisis & is correctly looking for any & all ways to dig itself from out of this hole. The fact that a plan which goes along with this line of thinking is considered “ill-advised” illustrates how the city truly neglects its financial responsibilities to the MTA & more specifically its riding public, you know the millions that both parties are supposed to serve!

The city should be applauding the MTA for trying to find ways to tighten its belt while also bringing in much needed revenue. Instead of focusing on the true issues at hand, we have adults sparring over petty nonsense. How is the riding public ever supposed to believe that things will change when many people in high places are more concerned for the little things instead of the real issues at hand? If these people can’t look in the mirror or within themselves to realize this, what hope does the riding public have?

Not much if you ask me……………………………

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Approves Plan To Charge Government Agencies Tolls

A week ago I wrote about the MTA’s desire to charge local government agencies with the toll prices that average citizens pay. The plan which came endured sharp criticism from Mayor Bloomberg & his appointees on the MTA Board was approved by a margin of 7-6. The approval came after a lively debate at today’s MTA Board meeting. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has more in this report:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Wednesday to start charging government agencies for police officers, firefighters and other public employees who cross its bridges and tunnels.

The MTA board approved the plan 7-6 after a debate that pitted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointees against several of the other members.

City budget director Mark Page, one of the mayor’s four representatives on the MTA board, said “the ill will arising from this proposal” would probably outweigh the expected $10 million a year in additional revenue.

MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander said he sympathized with the city’s position but added, “This is an accounting issue. And it’s something that we need to do given the current state of the MTA’s finances.”

The plan will go into effect in six weeks and affects dozens of agencies including the New York Police Department, the New York State Police and the Nassau and Suffolk county police departments.

Click here for the complete report.

I’m with Elliot here in feeling this had to be done in light of the budget situation. While the amount of $10 million barely takes a spot in the overall deficit, it is still an amount that is better to have than not at all. In the times that the agency is in, every dollar counts & could help make or break them in the long run. Any possible ill will will have to be overlooked for the greater cause & even the sharpest critics of this plan should be able to understand that.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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A Detailed Look At The Extended NYC Subway Line Manager Program

A couple of days ago I wrote about the MTA’s intention to extend their line manager program after a successful run on the 7 Train & L Train lines respectively. Now more specific details have come out about the extension courtesy of a press release that was e-mailed to me. Here is the release:

Following the successful introduction of the Line General Manager program on the 7 and L lines late last year, MTA New York City Transit is continuing the move toward decentralization with the implementation of the first major managerial reorganization of the Department of Subways since the creation of the agency more than 50 years ago.

The current structure of centralized leadership is being replaced by a far more localized operation aimed at cutting through the red tape and inertia that can often affect large organizations. The reorganization creates a more direct system of responsibility designed to be immediately responsive to both customers and employees.

“The prime focus of the reorganization of the Department of Subways is to move the area of responsibility closer to the employees who provide the services and to the customers – who are the end users of those services,” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “Our Line General Managers will be expected to take a hands-on approach to addressing everything their customers experience from service to the cleanliness of trains and stations. Our experience with the 7 and L demonstrates that services are more efficiently delivered when they aren’t filtered through a large, unwieldy bureaucracy.”

The 7 and L lines have been part of the Line general Manager program since December 2007. At that time a Line General Manager and a Deputy were installed on both lines. Since then this approach has been a success in several areas, outperforming other lines even though operating personnel remained in their divisions. When the roll-out is complete, approximately 19,000 employees will be moved from the central divisions into the lines themselves and a budget savings of more than $7 million is expected.

Full program implementation will see 18 Line General Managers covering the system’s 26 individual subway lines. While the majority of the Line General Managers will be responsible for a single line, in some cases a manager will be assigned to cover more than one line. This will be the case along lines where ridership is relatively low or share the same track. As examples, the N and W are grouped together as are the J, M, and Z.

The 18 Line General Managers would in turn report to five Group General Managers. Decisions regarding which lines were combined to create a group were based on a number of criteria, including service corridor, service level, route and track miles, and the number of employees.

The New York City subway system is one of the largest and most complex rapid rail systems in the world. The workforce alone totals more than 28,000 individuals. Trains travel over 231 route miles and either stop or pass through 468 stations. The car fleet of 6,400 is supported by 14 car maintenance facilities, two overhaul shops, and 23 subway yards. Train movements are guided by 118 towers. The 7 line alone, which is the 7th largest NYCT line in terms of ridership, is equivalent to the fourth largest transit system in the United States. Only Washington D.C., Chicago, and Boston surpass the Flushing Line.

The current plan to reorganize the Department of Subways reflects the successful reorganization of the Department of Buses almost 25 years ago, when that department was reorganized with a borough focus.

The managers are being required to take a hands-on approach to running “their railroads.” The Line General Managers will be able to direct staff as necessary to address priority issues, responding to contacts with customers and the results of the Rider Report Cards. Their duties also include making regular visits to their line’s stations, maintenance facilities, and crew quarters; making decisions concerning the best way to deliver service; and investing time each day engaging their employees and customers.

The Line General Managers will be evaluated in a number of areas, including safety, customer service, and employee morale. They will also be responsible for line performance indicators, such as On-Time Performance and Mean Distance Between Failures. The groups will be held firmly accountable for the quality of service on their lines. The customer service rating will originate with the customers themselves through the ratings provided by the Rider Report Card.

The reorganization will be rolled out in two phases. Initially, two groups will be created: IRT West, which incorporates the 1 2 3 and 7 lines, and IRT East, comprised of the 4 5 6 and 42nd Street Shuttle S. With these two groups, there are distinct lines of responsibility for the two corridors.
Phase Two will see the creation of three additional groups: the BMT Group, which would include the B D N Q W and Franklin Shuttle S; the BMT/IND group, consisting of the A C J L M Z and Rockaway Shuttle S; and the IND group, with the E F G R V. The majority of personnel within the groups would report to one of the 18 Line General Managers. Full roll out of the program could take place by early 2009.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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