Governor Patterson Appoints 12 Members To MTA Financing Commission

Earlier today, New York Governor David Patterson announced the appoint of 12 members to the MTA Financing Commission which will be headed by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch. Here is the press release courtesy of the New York Governor website.

Governor David A. Paterson today appointed 12 members to the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Financing, to be chaired by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch. The Commission is charged with recommending strategies to fund MTA capital projects and operating needs over the next ten years, a period when the Authority will be under unprecedented financial pressure as it expands its system and rebuilds its core infrastructure to provide the additional capacity needed to allow the region to grow. Governor Paterson announced in April that Richard Ravitch would head the Commission in wake of the failure of the congestion pricing proposal, which would have provided an additional revenue stream to the MTA.

“New York’s leaders have too often underestimated the critical importance of mass transit to the economic wellbeing of the region and the quality of life of our citizens,” said Governor Paterson. “New York City’s famous subway system, its buses, and the extensive regional commuter rail network are the lifelines of the greatest city in the world, bringing millions of people to their places of work, fueling development, and increasing the property values of residents and businesses. The congestion pricing debate highlighted the need for sustainable funding for the MTA. This Commission will help ensure that the MTA has the resources it needs to expand and maintain a mass transit system that can increase regional prosperity while also curbing sprawl, reducing traffic congestion and improving the environment.”

The Commission will include experts on transportation and finance, and will be chaired by Richard Ravitch, former Chairman of the MTA and a New York City business leader. The Commission will submit its report to the Governor and legislative leaders by December 5, 2008.

“As MTA Chairman from 1979 to 1983, Richard Ravitch was one of those New Yorkers with the foresight to see how invaluable a safe, reliable mass transit system is to the health of the City,” said Governor Paterson. “He was a leader with the ability to bring that vision to reality by developing the first MTA capital plan that famously saved the New York City mass transit system from collapse. We need that kind of leadership today which is why I am appointing Dick to lead the Commission that will help chart the next ten years for the MTA.”

Ravitch, who thanked the Governor for his trust and support, said: “The future of the MTA and the future of New York State are inseparably linked, and I am grateful for this opportunity to serve my Governor and the State by helping chart a course for the Authority’s continued success. The years I served as MTA Chairman are amongst the proudest of my career, and I am lucky that I can again be of service to the organization.”

The Commission reports to the Governor and legislative leaders will include an estimate of capital needs for the next two MTA programs through 2018. The panel will work with the MTA to review the needs presented in the 2008-13 Capital Program recently approved by the MTA board and preliminarily estimate the subsequent capital program needs through 2018. The Commission will, in conjunction with the MTA, consider the funding requirements for the core program of normal replacement and state of good repair projects as well as the cost of completing existing mega projects and undertaking additional system expansion. The Commission will not be asked to make recommendations on transit priorities reflected in the current MTA Capital Plan.

With regard to the MTA operating budget, the Commission will review scenarios developed by the MTA that predict the range of operating budget shortfalls over the next ten years.

The Commission will then propose a series of actions to address the identified funding needs. These actions may include, but are not limited to: proposals on new funding sources authorized by the Governor and the State Legislature to be dedicated to the MTA, toll and fare adjustments in support of MTA operations and its capital plan, congestion pricing, and initiatives to maximize MTA efficiencies.

The Commission will also examine MTA financing policy issues such as the role of debt in the MTA capital program, the role of the Port Authority in funding regional mega projects, federal, state and local government burden sharing for financing the MTA, and other mass transit providers in the MTA region.

Since announcing that Richard Ravitch would head the Commission to examine MTA funding, the Governor and his staff have been working with Mr. Ravitch to recruit members and develop a charge and work plan for the Commission.

The Governor recognizes that the financing of downstate mass transit cannot be divorced from the broader statewide transportation strategy, and this Commission should serve as a model for how New York State takes up the responsibility of funding its other transportation needs including highway and bridges, rail, ports and aviation.

The following people have agreed to serve on the Commission (in alphabetical order):

  • Laura L. Anglin – Budget Director
  • Keven Burke – Chairman of the Board @ Con Edison/Con Edison of New York
  • Robert B. Catell – National Grid, US Chairman
  • Douglas Durst – Third generation member @ The Durst Organization
  • Peter Goldmark – Program director of the Climate & Air program @ Environmental Defense Fund
  • Denis Hughes – New York State AFL-CIO President
  • Father Joseph McShane – Fordham University President
  • Mysore L. Nagaraja – Well known expert advisor in urban transportation
  • Mark Page – New York City Office of Management & Budget Director
  • Steven Polan – Partner @ Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP
  • Elliot G. Sander – MTA CEO & Executive Director
  • Kim Paparello Vaccari – Head of the Transportation Group @ Banc of America Securities

The commission is to report its proposals to Governor Patterson by December 5th, 2008.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Newsday Continues To Seek LIRR Riders’ Stories

Last November I wrote an entry about Newsday seeking feedback/stories from Long Island Railroad (LIRR) riders. Well they are back with another request for such stories. On June 9th, they published 2 more stories from Jeremy & Joseph respectively. Here are their stories courtesy of Newsday

I was recently on the 4:22 p.m. train to Port Washington when a man, giving the appearance of being incredibly intoxicated, stumbled into the car and fell akimbo upon the seat across from me. It looked (and sounded) like he was going to vomit at any time, especially when the conductor came by. Finally, as the train pulled into the Manhasset station, the “drunk” passenger got up from his seat, made it clear that he was sober as a judge, and laughingly told those of us still around him that his act gets him a free ride whenever he wants. – Joseph

About a month ago, my fiancee and I were … taking the 3 a.m. [train]. I got up at some point to use the bathroom … Within about 15 seconds, someone punches or kicks the door, and threatens to “cave in” my head. … I wasn’t about to get ambushed on the way out, so I cautiously open the door to see if there was anyone still there. To my surprise … there was nobody … Not more than five minutes later, I can hear [someone] yelling, and then the sudden breaking of glass. As I look up, I see this tall bald guy, mid 30s, pushing around some guys at the other end of the car … and then all hell broke loose.

There were about six or seven people engaged with each other, a glass bottle broke near my seat … The conductor stopped the train and locked our car down, leaving us with this idiot yelling at people … At the end of it, this guy has a cut on his neck that’s bleeding profusely and is put in handcuffs, some of the other guys just disappeared, and my fiancee and I were left wondering, “What was that about?” – Jeremy

I love reading these stories for some reason…

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Ask Gene

Yesterday, the New York Times City Room Blog announced they would have a special guest answer transit related questions. The guest is none other than staff lawyer as well as the main face & voice behind the Straphangers Campaign, Gene Russianoff. Here is a short piece of their announcement courtesy of the New York Times City Room Blog

This week, Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, will be answering City Room readers’ questions about improving New York City’s public transportation, where the city stands on congestion pricing and concerns about the subways and buses.

This should prove quite interesting if I may say so myself. I notice that there are already 245 comments to the piece as of this writing. I will be going through the comments & bring any interesting information. So check back for updates!

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Atlantic Yards Rally A Sham?

The writer of a June 7th editorial in “The Brooklyn Paper” sure seems to think so as they compared the rally to the faux democracy in North Korea when they said

As such, this rally is not a spontaneous show of democracy, American-style. It’s democracy as they practice it in North Korea, where lackeys are paid to show up and sing paeans to the Great Leader on command.

Here is the full editorial courtesy of “The Brooklyn Paper

On Thursday in front of Borough Hall, Bruce Ratner sponsored a rally to celebrate “Brooklyn’s renaissance” and “the progress of Atlantic Yards.

As if they are the same thing.

Hundreds of union members showed up at this “Brooklyn Day!” rally to pledge support for a stalled project that has actually not played any part in Brooklyn’s revival. Just the opposite is true: Ratner’s wholesale demolitions have blighted parts of the thriving Prospect Heights neighborhood.

Those at the rally — many of whom were bussed in — said they support Ratner because of the jobs that his project will create. But it’s hard to take such tributes to Ratner seriously given that Ratner paid for the stage on Thursday — and that union workers are required to attend such mass rallies under their organizations’ rules, a union boss told us this week.

As such, this rally is not a spontaneous show of democracy, American-style. It’s democracy as they practice it in North Korea, where lackeys are paid to show up and sing paeans to the Great Leader on command.

The irony, of course, is that if the very elected officials who continue to sing from Ratner’s choir book — we’re talking about enablers like Borough President Markowitz and the croneyists at the Empire State Development Corporation — had not rubber stamped Ratner’s overly large, impossible-to-finance mini-city, those hard-working union men and women might now be building a rationally scaled, multi-developer project that everyone could admire.

Instead, Ratner’s forces continue to advance a false choice that unless he builds his Xanadu, nothing will get built on the state-owned Vanderbilt Rail Yards.

But that has always been a fallacy created to project Ratner as a civic do-gooder, regardless of the fact that taxpayers are underwriting all the supposed public benefits of his project, such as the promise of publicly subsidized below-market-rate rentals, the publicly subsidized return of major league sports to Brooklyn, the publicly subsidized improvements to local infrastructure and the publicly subsidized open space.

Now, as at the beginning of this excruciating process four-and-a-half years ago, there remains no organized opposition to development at the Vanderbilt yards. Indeed, the principal group opposing Ratner’s vision is called Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

There are alternatives to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project — which is having trouble getting financing because of its many flaws. The time has come for Ratner, his paid union allies and flacks like Markowitz to abandon this failed project and work with those who seek sane, viable, broadly supported development for this valuable publicly owned site.

I truly feel bad for the people who have already been or will be forced out due to this project. While the amount of jobs such a project could possibly bring to the local economy, it is nowhere near enough to justify how this project was originated out of greed & not necessity. Brooklyn does not need the New Jersey Nets & I’d be willing to bet many don’t want them if they had the choice. As usual in situations like this, money talks & the desire of the people gets swept under the rug.

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4th Avenue Station Gets Dealt A Major Blow

4th Avenue station at night; Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

This past Saturday, “The Brooklyn Paper” broke the unfortunate news that the MTA has abandoned its plans to completely overhaul the 4th Avenue station on the . While the track work phase of the project is still a go, plans to overhaul the station’s appearance from its current state to a more European style. Last November, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority showcased samples of what the station would look like. Unfortunately for local residents & riders, the overhaul will have to come another day if it comes at all. Here is the full story courtesy of “The Brooklyn Paper

The MTA giveth and the MTA taketh away.

This time, the almighty transportation agency has abandoned its ambitious plans to renovate the shabby Fourth Avenue station in Park Slope into a glittering, light-filled, Euro-styled stunner.

Just last November, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority showed off renderings (left) of the elevated F-train platform basking in sunlight from new windows, renovations that were part of a larger project to reconstruct the crumbling elevated tracks on the F and G line between the Carroll Street and Fourth Avenue.

The trackwork is still set to start later this year and finish in 2012. And improvements to the equally beleaguered Smith–Ninth Street station are still slated to begin next year.

But the overall $250-million project has been trimmed to $187.8 million, so something had to give, said Deirdre Parker, a spokeswoman for New York City Transit.

“Work on the Fourth Avenue station was never officially funded,” Parker said in an e-mail — one that contradicts an announcement made at a Community Board 6 meeting last November. “Consideration has been deferred until the next capital plan.”

Station appearances are not as important as the system’s functionality, but it does matter to riders.

“Aesthetics and cleanliness matter to the experience of riders,” said Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “To think that those things don’t affect the quality of your ride and your experience misses the reality of transit riding.”

Other MTA critics said it was disingenuous for the plans to be touted publicly only to be quietly dropped months later.

“They have to have a public dialogue,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

Local subway riders were just as withering in their rebukes to the agency.

“It’s a bad thing that it’s not going to be remodeled,” said Rosanny Fernandez. “When you’re waiting for the train, you want to feel like you get what you paid for.”

Others said the refurbishments were not a priority compared to the condition of other stations.

“I was really excited that they were going to redo it, but my first reaction was that they should do Smith-Ninth first,” said Jeremy Olsen, who lives nearby on 11th Street.

Looks like the MTA agrees with him.

Of course, it’s not the first time that a much-ballyhooed improvement went from front-burner to back (or, more accurately, into the basement),

Following a fare hike and weeks after promising to spend $30 million on expanded service in his state of the MTA address in March, Elliott Sander, the agency’s executive director, backtracked on the promise, forcing Brooklynites to forgo bus service from Red Hook to Manhattan, better G-train service, an extension to the B67 to Fulton Ferry in DUMBO, and other improvements.

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