3 New Rider Report Grades Are In

The overall grade for the , , & Rockaway Park are in for their respective 2007 Rider Report Card. Lets start with the A which earned an overall grade of a C-. Some of the individual grades for the included a D for “adequate room on board at rush hour” as well as for hard to hear station announcements.

The earned an overall grade of a D+. Some of the individual grades for the C included a D for “reasonable wait times for trains” as well as for sub par station & train announcements. The highest grade earned was a B- for the availability of Metrocard machines.

The Rockaway Park earned an overall grade of a D+. Some of the individual grades for the shuttle included a D for “reasonable wait times for trains” & a B- for the availability of Metrocard machines. The highest grade earned was a B- not just the Metrocard machine availability but for “adequate room on board at rush hour” as well.

The MTA has not released the full results as of yet. However when they are released, I will provide the usual full breakdown along with my analysis of the grades earned.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Should They Really?

The Daily News, some local politicians & transit officials seem to think so. The question I’m referring to is should the MTA consolidate all six of their operating divisions. This past Friday, Pete Donohue wrote an article about this topic as part of the New York Daily News’ “Halt The Hike” campaign. Here is the entire article courtesy of the New York Daily News:

The MTA – which still wants to raise multi ride transit fares to close a budget gap – could save millions of dollars with some common sense and union cooperation, officials and advocates say.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has six operating divisions, including NYC Transit, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North railroad.

Each has a president and executive staff handling human resources, legal matters, labor relations and other duties.

Fiscal watchdogs and transit officials say consolidating operations is a potential gold mine of savings.

A glimpse of the potential savings emerged in July. The MTA awarded a $25 million contract for office supplies used by many divisions, which had been striking individual deals at higher prices. The negotiated bulk purchase with reduced prices will save approximately $8.5 million over five years, documents show.

Still, officials say, the MTA as a whole has not saved much money through its so-called shared services initiative.

“Progress has been slow,” an August report by state Controller Thomas DiNapoli said.

A major challenge facing the MTA is existing labor contracts, officials said. A LIRR worker, for example, can’t be assigned a task now solely the responsibility of a Metro-North worker, officials said.

Transit advocates and experts acknowledge the MTA can’t fill projected 2009 budget gaps by cost-cutting alone, but there still is strong opposition to plans to hike fares and tolls.

The MTA first wanted to generate $580 million over the next two years with higher travel prices to start in February. That revenue target was slashed by $220 million Tuesday when Gov. Spitzer announced the MTA is in better financial shape than was predicted in July.

Many state legislators, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), want to avoid hikes completely by getting more mass transit money in state budget deliberations with Spitzer in January. They want hikes delayed until mid-April so they can work toward that goal.

Three board members have voiced support for a delay. Mayor Bloomberg, who has four votes on the board, has not taken a position, but he has said his support for hikes depends on whether he thinks the MTA is being as efficient as possible.

Meanwhile, the MTA has spent a lot of money to try to save money. Since March 2005, the MTA has awarded about $6.6 million in contracts to two consultants to study and develop shared services plans, records show.

The MTA is “eagerly awaiting” the results of one consultant’s study about creating a central business center to handle some payroll, billing and other duties on an MTA-wide basis, MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said. The report is expected in January.

“Streamlining MTA services to improve efficiency is one of the MTA’s top priorities and we recognize its potential for savings,” he said. “The business service center, while costly to implement, is expected to save the MTA millions over the long term.”

Quite frankly I don’t see this ever happening & question whether it would be a good idea. I understand the MTA would most likely save a ton of money from consolidating all six of their operating divisions. However sometimes in life it is better to let things run separate even if they are all related. i think this theory is definitely the case when it comes to the MTA. I do want to give this some thought just to be fare so look for me to address this idea in the near future.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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So Some Are Not Too Thrilled….

Many politicians & riders are thrilled by the MTA announcing that the $2 base fare will remain unchanged through the end of 2009, others like State Senator Dean Skelos are crying foul. The Rockville Centre Republican had this to say about the MTA’s promise to keep the base fare at $2; “Gov. Spitzer gave a Thanksgiving gift to New York City subway riders at the expense of overburdened Long Island commuters.” Here is an article on the situation courtesy of Steve Ritea of Newsday:

Some of the sting of a proposed fare hike for the Long Island Rail Road and the rest of the MTA’s transit empire will be soothed by a $220-million surplus discovered literally over the past few days, officials announced yesterday.

Some officials applauded the announcement but a few questioned whether riders from the suburbs are being treated fairly when the $2 base fare for city subway and bus riders is not being hiked.

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) ripped the scenario as benefiting strap- hangers over his constituents, saying, “Gov. Spitzer gave a Thanksgiving gift to New York City subway riders at the expense of overburdened Long Island commuters.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials, at a news conference hastily called at Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Manhattan office, could not say by how much the proposed 6.5 percent increase on commuter rails would drop, pending more number-crunching.

But “the increase will be much lower,” said Spitzer, flanked by MTA Chief Elliot Sander and MTA Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger.

As the fare-hike proposal is revised, the only thing guaranteed to remain unchanged is the $2 base fare for single rides on city subways and buses, paid by about 15 percent of all riders. MetroCard and unlimited monthly pass buyers could see an increase – and that amount, too, is not yet known.

Hemmerdinger, however, said the MTA board will be looking for a plan that spreads the surplus throughout the system. “The board is very concerned about the equity and distribution of this $220 million,” he said, adding the board still plans to vote on a rate hike next month.

Sander said his staff expects to deliver a revised fare proposal in coming weeks. It was unclear whether it would be ready for a Monday meeting of the MTA’s finance committee.

Whatever plan the board approves would be likely to take effect in March, officials have said. Sander vowed those fares will remain unchanged through the end of 2009.

LIRR Commuter Council President Gerard Bringmann called preservation of the $2 base fare “window dressing,” saying few riders pay it.

The MTA’s surplus instead could be used to hold off any board vote on a fare hike until the state budget is prepared, he suggested. Some lawmakers have said they might find enough money in April to avert any increase.

Spitzer was not encouraging on that front, but promised to work with the agency. “We’d all like to have more money to spend, but we have a $4.3 billion deficit in Albany,” he said.

Sander said the MTA was not pressured by the state.

Board member and hike opponent Mitch Pally said he believes the full board will approve a lesser increase. “While the impact is less, there still is an impact, and I don’t see why we should do it now,” he added.

The additional funds are non-recurring and consist of $60 million from an expected 1 percent increase in ridership, $60 million from greater-than-expected real estate tax revenue, $60 million in unspent monies and $40 million from lesser-than-anticipated debt service costs.

I find it hard to feel sorry for people who are complaining about this being unfair. New York City riders have had to put up with far inferior service to our suburban counterparts. Plus in all honesty what are they complaining about as most of us who reside in the city are still going to get hit with increases. As I discussed here, only 14% of riders pay $2 per fare to begin with. So in theory we are still getting the raw end of the deal just like our suburban counterparts. So in the end Mr. Skelos should cut out the game of trying to look good for his constituents as it is not fooling me one bit!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Service Alert As Of 6:25 A.M.

The MTA has posted a service alert affecting 4 of their branches. The service alert reads:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 6:25 AM

Hempstead, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Oyster Bay Branch Customers:

Service is suspended on the Main Line through Queens Village because of a disabled westbound Hempstead train at Queens Village. The suspension of service is affecting Hempstead, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Oyster Bay Branch trains and as a result there is limited westbound service west of Jamaica.

Just great, a crappy start to the morning commute on one of if not the busiest travel days of the year. Oh joy joy!!!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA To Reduce The Proposed Fare Increase

Q Train Idling @ 21st St.-Queensbridge during a G.O. earlier this year. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

Sorry for being late with this entry but I was swamped all day yesterday. Anyhow by now I am sure you have all heard or read the news that the MTA has announced that they will not be raising the $2.00 base fare on buses & subways. The announcement comes after Gov. Spitzer called for the MTA to not go through with raising the base fares. Let me start by sharing the press release that was issued by the MTA yesterday:

MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander and Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger today committed to giving straphangers and commuters a break and reducing the amount of the proposed fare and toll increase at a press conference with Governor Eliot Spitzer. The announcement was prompted by feedback from public hearings and the arrival of updated budget forecasts, which added $220 million to the MTA’s year-end balance.

Governor Spitzer expressed his support for the responsible long-term fiscal planning in the MTA’s financial plan, but also urged the MTA to ease the burden on its riders. The MTA committed to revising its fare proposal to hold the $2.00 base fare for subway and bus riders and return the full $220 million to MTA customers over a two year period.

“The MTA’s long-term fiscal picture remains difficult, but right now riders are facing tough financial times and I am pleased that the MTA has agreed to reduce the increase,” Governor Spitzer said.

The MTA announced year-end projections $220 million above the figures projected in July, when the agency’s preliminary financial plan was released. The additional $220 million was derived from the following sources:

Farebox revenue: $60 million due to an approximately one percent increase in anticipated ridership

Real estate taxes: $60 million higher than expected

Underspending: $60 million saved

Debt service costs: $40 million saved

The MTA announced that it would reduce its proposed 6.5 percent fare and toll increase to return the entire $220 million to riders over the next two years, shared proportionately across the MTA’s operating agencies. The reduction will allow the MTA to hold the base fare for subway and bus riders at $2.00.

“The MTA is grateful to Governor Spitzer for his commitment to funding public transit and our four-year financial plan,” Sander said. “We are glad that revenues came in high enough to allow us to limit the fare increase and still address $6 billion in deficits over the next four years.”

MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger joined the Governor and Sander in the announcement, and pledged to work with the Board to reach a conclusion in December.

“When I was confirmed I said I would listen to the public and review the numbers and I am thrilled that we are able to give something back,” Hemmerdinger said. “I believe this is a compromise that helps our customers without compromising our fiduciary responsibility, and I look forward to discussing it further with my fellow Board members.”

Continue reading for my opinion on this latest twist in the fare hike saga

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