MTA Cutting Its Budget By $61M

The MTA is in a major hole financially. This is not news to any of us who keep tabs with all the happenings in & around the MTA. In keeping with the bad financial news theme comes a report about the MTA’s New York City Transit division cutting its budget by $61 million dollars. This comes as the MTA is looking at any & all ways to save money as noted recently when they announced a slash of budgets for travel, food, phones, & Blackberries along with new hires. Matthew Sweeney of AMNY has more on this story:

NYC Transit is chopping its budget next year by $61 million, much of it through the reduction of bus and subway maintenance jobs.

The search for savings is part of an overall Metropolitan Transportation Authority goal of reducing costs by 6 percent over the next four years as the agency faces a financial crisis. For its part, NYC Transit has projected saving $251.3 million from 2009 through 2012. The bulk of the savings in 2009 — $39.4 million — will come from reductions to maintenance.

The cuts come at a time when subway service has been on a gradual but steady decline and when talk has started again about another possible fare hike next year.

Transit officials worked to reassure straphangers yesterday, saying in a statement that none of the proposed savings “will have an impact on safety, security or customer service levels.”

The MTA board will meet Wednesday to go over a preliminary budget for 2009.

Some of the cuts to transit include:

– Fewer buses will get 12-year maintenance upgrades

– Reduction in the number of platform controllers

– Fewer resources to maintain scratch-free glass on 1 and L lines.

According to NY1’s report on this issue, the amount of jobs being lost with these cuts will total over 500.

I must say it is concerning that one of the cuts would be the reduction in maintaining scratchiti free glass on the subway cars itself. While it is not the most important feature in the world, riding a scratchiti free train is a nice surprise when one comes across it. As a straphanger, I feel it is not too much to ask for to ride an aesthetically pleasing while safe train from point A to point B.

Overall my main concern is the MTA not falling back into the pitfalls of the 1970’s which saw our system in shambles after it fell out of a state of good repair. While the MTA has been doing what it can to take care of the most important repair related issues in maintaining our system, it is vital that we do not get to a level where our system has deteriorated to a state of needing enormous amounts of money to repair it. Considering the current state of finances, this is something the MTA can not afford to have happen.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Third Rail Project Battle

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has many projects that are important to its operations. While many would say the East Side Access project is the most important, I will respectfully disagree. I feel the most important project for the Long Island Rail Road is the creation of a third track on the main line. The third track is needed as it would help ease the burden on the 10 mile stretch for the Main Line between Floral Park & Hicksville.

Two MTA Board members spoke out about the importance of this project being completed on time as they strongly disagreed with LIRR President Helena Williams who feels the East Side Access project is of higher priority. Steve Ritea of Newsday has more on this story:

A third track will be constructed on schedule “come hell or high water” along the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line, MTA board member Mitch Pally said Wednesday, a week after LIRR President Helena Williams suggested the effort probably will be delayed.

“It’s a project that must happen,” agreed board member James McGovern of Manhasset. “If you’ll forgive the analogy, the island has, basically, a clogged artery and Third Track is the angioplasty.”

With the project estimated at $1.5 billion and the LIRR’s link to Grand Central Terminal still needing an additional $3 billion, Williams last week said a financial crunch at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has forced “a reordering of priorities.” That puts third track behind the Grand Central link, also known as East Side Access.

“We are recognizing that we aren’t going to get another mega-project funded on Long Island,” she said after the meeting, referring to funding for projects other than East Side Access in the MTA’s next five-year capital plan, which begins in 2010.

Pally, of Stony Brook, disagreed, calling third track “the highest priority that we have” and equal in importance to East Side Access.

“My opinion … is that the third track project is on schedule and will remain on schedule, and we will do everything possible to make sure the necessary funds are earmarked by MTA,” he said.

While the third track project never had a defined start date, construction along 10 heavily traveled miles of the Main Line between Hicksville and Floral Park was slated for completion by 2018 or 2019. East Side Access is scheduled to debut in 2015.

The additional track would provide a “passing lane” for express trains and around disabled trains. After the Grand Central connection is complete, LIRR officials say they plan to run up to 24 additional trains during peak hours.

But the project has fueled anxiety and opposition in communities along those 10 miles, where the LIRR has said up to 91 commercial and residential properties could be affected. The railroad has not identified those properties.

On Wednesday, Pally and three other committee members in attendance voted to allot $100,000 for a study of less costly measures that can help with capacity until a third track is constructed. Pally cautioned that those measures should not delay a third track and should “complement rather than substitute” for it.

McGovern added: “We don’t want to spend a dollar on something along that corridor that we’ll have to tear up in two years.”

Williams said the study would look at tracks, trains, platforms and signals, but declined to speculate on the changes.

After the meeting, a group calling itself the Long Island Transit Coalition — including the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Long Island Federation of Labor and the LIRR Commuters Council — said it will fight for funding to complete the third track project on schedule.

I strongly agree with those who feel this project is as important if not more so than East Side Access. The people who would benefit from East Side Access will see those benefits increase tenfold if this project could be completed. If you factor in the third rail project along with the current Queens Interlocking project, this would become a dream commute for riders of the LIRR regardless of their Manhattan terminal destination. The LIRR needs to find a way to get both projects done & if one has to take a back seat, it should be East Side Access. The third rail project benefits all LIRR riders as compared to some.

Lets hope the LIRR does not back down to the ridiculous NIMBY’s & elected officials who are showing no concern for Long Island’s railroad infrastructure evidenced by comments in this article.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Could Save Millions

According to a group of elected officials, the MTA could save millions by leasing or selling the former NYC Transit headquarters at 370 Jay Street. Matthew Sweeney of AMNY has the story:

When they look at its nearly vacant building at Jay and Willoughby streets in Downtown Brooklyn, some critics of the MTA see an opportunity to help fund the cash-strapped agency.

With another possible fare hike looming as the agency faces soaring budget deficits, the MTA could save about $100 million if it sells or leases eight floors of the 13-story building on 370 Jay Street, a group of elected officials say.

“With the agency facing a capital budget deficit and straphangers continuing to wait for long-promised service improvements, the MTA ought to be leveraging valuable real estate for profit, not letting it sit empty and unused,” City Councilman David Yassky (D- Manhattan) said.

When the MTA board meets next week, it is expected to take some significant steps to cover its budget shortfalls. The agency may propose a fare hike next year to cover the $500 to $700 million hole in its operating budget. And the MTA board is expected to approve $2.7 billion in cuts to subway station repairs and other work as it amends its capital budget for 2005-09.

“We’re watching and we’re worried,” said Gene Russianoff, senior staff attorney for NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, considering the possibility of an MTA fare hike proposal next week.

The MTA is planning to spend some $150 million from its capital budget over the next several years to renovate and reoccupy the former NYC Transit headquarters above the Jay Street station.

The MTA says that it will save money in the long term by consolidating back office space from other leased properties at the building.

“At a time when the MTA is scrambling to balance its budget — with possible fare hikes and service cuts — it should not waste its resources on building back office for MTA operations,” said Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “They should allow the private sector to step forward and turn what could be a cash drain into a revenue generator.”

Some city and state officials and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership argue that by selling the building or leasing some of its floors the MTA could save $100 million to fund the repair of stations or make other improvements in its capital budget.

Two City Council members and two state Assembly members from Brooklyn have written to former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch to argue that the authority reconsider its plans for the building. Ravitch was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to run a commission charged with finding new sources of funding for the MTA. The Ravitch Commission is expected to have suggestions by Dec.5.

The letter to Ravitch points out that the MTA’s plan would leave 370 Jay Street, already vacant for several years, largely unoccupied until 2016.

The MTA says it can¹t sell the building because the city owns it, and there¹s no space to lease. A source familiar with the building said in the past, the city has put forward the idea to the MTA of selling it.

“We need the whole building,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said in an e-mail. “We are emptying the building as we find space so that it can be fully renovated. We have many employees in leased space that will easily fill the building when it is renovated.”

On paper it looks great to save approximately $100 million dollars when a budget deficit could be as much as $700 million. However I worry about elected officials & the MTA themselves implementing stop-gap measures instead of going for more permanent solutions.

I feel the MTA does not need to lease or sell off the building if in the long run it will cost them more money. While it might be nice to get an influx of cash at the current time, it serves no purpose if they end up in a worse state in the future. While it is nice to see elected & MTA officials trying to help starve off a potential fare hike, I urge they do so responsibly.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Woman Saved From Train Tracks

Three days ago, a most likely horrible incident was averted as a Brooklyn woman was saved after falling to the tracks at the Myrtle-Willoughby Avenues station on the G Train line. NY1 has the story:

A woman was rescued after falling onto subway tracks in Brooklyn Tuesday afternoon at around 4 p.m. at the Myrtle and Willoughby Avenue station of the G Train Line in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Officials say the woman was having a seizure at the time she fell.

When emergency medics arrived, they found her lying face-down between the first and second rail.

She was taken to Woodhull Hospital where she was held for observation.

Thankfully a sure disaster was averted.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro-North Repairs Lead To Road Detour

The Metro-North division of the MTA issued a press release a few days about repairs that will lead to a road detour in the town of Southeast. Here are the details:

The Town of Southeast will close Prospect Hill Bridge beginning Monday July 21, 2008 so that MTA Metro-North Railroad can repair the 98-year-old bridge.

The 270-foot-long bridge, which was built in 1910 and has a load limit of five tons, carries Prospect Hill Road over the Harlem Line railroad tracks and parts of the Brewster Yard.

Metro-North, in consultation with the Town of Southeast, came up with the shortest possible detour which adds about two miles to the trip, rerouting traffic over to Route 312 to Route 6 to North Main Street.

The bridge will be closed for at least two months as the railroad will be removing concrete to determine the condition of the steel on the truss span. Metro-North welders and masons will be repairing the structural steel of the span.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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