Do We Really Need All These Executives?

According to the MTA they do as the recently released 2009 preliminary budget plan by the MTA features calls for the elimination of approximately 500 jobs. Unsurprising to most, none of those jobs are “suits” within MTA Headquarters. Pete Donohue of the Daily News has the report:

The MTA plans on cutting hundreds of positions from its budget – but not one suit at authority headquarters apparently is expendable.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed “Program to Eliminate the Gap,” part of its preliminary 2009 budget plan, trims about 500 positions, mostly from the NYC Transit bus and subway division.

MTA headquarters – the division at the top of the food chain – wouldn’t lose one executive, according to the preliminary budget. About 1,400 staffers are on the headquarter’s payroll, about half are members of the MTA Police Department.

All told – with positions cut and added to address new initiatives or programs – the MTA head count remains relatively flat at about 68,000, officials said.

Metro-North is adding more than 50 workers, for example, because it’s opening a new station near Yankee Stadium.

Some board members on Wednesday said the MTA needs to reduce expenses further.

“We really have to tighten our belts and look for other ways to save money,” board member Norman Seabrook said.

The MTA is cutting “controllable expenses” by 6% over four years, starting this year, MTA CEO Lee Sander said. That’s on top of 5% in reductions from 2004 to last year, he said. It will continue to look for more savings but can’t slice too deeply without reducing service and impacting the reliability of the transit system, he said.

NYC Transit reductions include trimming dozens of workers assigned to such tasks as cleaning subway cars as part of a pilot program on two lines, removing debris from tracks, doing preventative maintenance on turnstiles and MetroCard vending machines.

Officials said the agency will be more efficient and riders wouldn’t see a slide in conditions.

The agency also will reduce the number of property guards by 13 and rely more on surveillance systems and alarms.

It also is ending its participation in the Work Experience Program – where the unemployed toil for welfare benefits – that requires transit cleaners to fill supervisory roles.

I’m not surprised at the angle being taken in the report. However I must say it legitimately calls into question the positions that will not get cut. Should I & the rest of the riding public believe every single position at the job is more important than the ones proposed to be cut? I have a hard time believing these positions are more important than ones for cleaning subway cars, removing track debris, etc..?

Such positions are vital if you ask me as a clean subway car is never a bad thing. More importantly, cleaning track debris is a strong way of preventing track fires which cause headaches for everyone directly or indirectly involved. What does every single employee within the MTA Headquarters do on a daily basis that makes their job more important? I would love to hear the answers as I’m sure most would be quite comical.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Watch CNN While Waiting For A Train

Lost amidst the recent financial negativity from last Wednesday’s MTA Board Meeting was the announcement of a possible partnership between themselves & CNN. Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News has the brief story:

Coming soon to a subway platform near you: Wolf Blitzer.

The MTA is exploring a partnership with CNN to install TV screens tuned to the cable news channel at various train and subway stations around the city.

CNN has TV screens in departure lounges in 42 airports. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s pilot program would install TV screens in six stations later this year to see how the idea goes over.

“We haven’t determined the stations yet but we’re thinking of a mix of commuter rail, subway and maybe a bus station,” said MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin.

News, features and sports scores would run on a loop for waiting straphangers. The MTA also could broadcast transit information.

CNN will provide the equipment and the pilot project won’t cost the MTA anything.

If it works out, the MTA hopes to receive significant revenue from the network, which would sell ads on its subway network. “We have 5 million customers per day. That’s a lot of eyeballs,” Soffin said.

In the era of TiVo and DVDs, TV advertisers are desperate to find new captive audiences.

Many New York City cabs have TV screens installed.

In 2005, Atlanta’s MARTA became the first transit system to install flat-screen TVs displaying news and ads with closed captioning.

For starters I applaud the MTA’s initiative to bring better technology to our transit system. I will also applaud them for exploring a partnership that would benefit them overall without having to spend any out of pocket costs. However that is where my applause stops.

While I am for bringing better technology to our system, I question the timing for such initiatives. At a time where they face deficits that can possibly bring the system down, now is not the time to explore partnerships that don’t help with the here & now. The agency’s finances are so bad that any & all initiatives should be focused on getting out of our financial crisis. When the finances start to show improvement then & only then should they look into initiatives that are luxuries as compared to necessities.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Expects Ridership To Fall Flat In 2009

A few days ago Matthew Sweeney of AMNY had a report about the MTA’s projection for 2009 ridership numbers to fall flat. Here is his report:

After more than a decade of growth in transit ridership, the MTA is predicting that bus and subway straphanger numbers will fall flat in 2009.

Ridership on subways has grown dramatically this year — increasing by more than four percent — as people have run from the rising price of gasoline. The subway crowds have so far more than made up for a slight drop in bus ridership. But the MTA believes that days of increases are soon coming to an end. The MTA is expecting 2.35 billion bus and subway riders this year and 2.34 billion in 2009.

“The leveling off is due to two factors,” said Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “We grew more than expected in 2008 due in part to high gas prices and two is the loss of jobs due to the cooling off of the economy.”

The loss of jobs has a direct effect on the numbers of riders. And the agency’s forecasters expect that job losses will outpace any new riders who choose the subway to avoid the high cost of gasoline.

Click here to read his full report.

I happen to agree with the Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff when he said “I think predicting is a little risky and there are conflicting factors.” How can anyone trust these projections when just a 5 months ago, the MTA was forecasting ridership growth through 2012? I for one do not feel the growth will just fall flat in 2009. I would not be surprised if it did not fall at all. With the cost of driving seeming to become even more of a burden, drivers will continue to flock to mass transit even with fares expected to rise in the near future.

I seriously hope the MTA is not using these projections to make any cuts in service. We already need more service than we currently have so they better not pull any funny business. However this is the MTA we are talking about so funny numbers are just part of the package.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Subway General Manager Program Coming Soon

Caught in the mess of what has been a really negative amount of press for the MTA was MTA CEO/Executive director announcing plans to have a general manager for each individual subway line. Pete Donohue had the report:

The MTA is gearing up for a major subway management shakeup to improve service on the debt-ridden, delay-plagued system, the Daily News has learned.

This fall, individual lines systemwide are expected to get their own chiefs with broad authority to run them like their own mini-railroads, officials said Tuesday.

Click here to read the full report.

I am not sure why media outlets are acting like this news is new. They announced plans to do this back in December. The initial pilot program was implemented on the 7 & L lines respectively. It was known that if the program went well, it would be implemented on the remaining lines.

I am not going to repeat my opinions on the plan as they can be seen by clicking the link in the above paragraph.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The Nepotism Continues

A story that has come up a couple of times on this blog was the rerouting of the Q54 to serve the Shops at Atlas Park. Many have felt the reroute was a clear sign of nepotism to benefit MTA Board Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger who happens to be the co-owner & president of ATCO Properties which owns the mall.

However if you thought the initial reroute was a sign of nepotism, wait until you read about how yet another bus is being rerouted to serve the Shops at Atlas Park. Nicholas Hirshon of the New York Daily News has the report:

The MTA will reroute another bus past its chairman’s family-run shopping mall in Queens, defying a community board’s 39-to-1 vote against the switch and marking the second such reroute in just over a year, officials said.

Starting Sept. 1, the Q45 bus – which runs from Jackson Heights to Middle Village – will extend its route about 1.4 miles south to stop at the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, co-owned by MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger.

In July 2007, the MTA diverted the Q54 a few blocks off its old path so it, too, could stop at Atlas Park.

Critics charge Hemmerdinger orchestrated both reroutes to benefit the mall – run by his son, Damon – despite nearby residents’ concerns about noise, traffic and pollution.

“This is like sticking it to the people of Glendale,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5. “This is a crazy move that is going to hurt [Atlas Park’s] goodwill with the community even further.”

The board, which plays an advisory role in city government, voted overwhelmingly against the Q45 reroute on June 11.

A month later, on July 11, MTA Bus President Joseph Smith sent a letter to Giordano thanking the board for its input – but announcing the reroute would still go forward.

Dorie Figliola, one of 39 board members who voted against the Q45 switch, figured Dale Hemmerdinger guided it through to boost business at Atlas Park.

“If the shoe fits, I guess you could wear it,” she said. “There’s people in other areas that have been asking for buses … and they can’t get them.”

But MTA Bus spokesman Salvatore Arena denied that Dale Hemmerdinger – confirmed as MTA chief on Oct. 22 – pushed for the bus reroutes.

“The chairman played no role whatsoever in this decision, which we began exploring long before his appointment,” Arena said in an e-mail. “We went ahead with it because it makes good sense as transit policy.”

In Smith’s letter, he defended reroutes past malls as a way to let customers “access these malls and patronize their shops.”

Smith also wrote that MTA Bus “would not make this revision if we thought that it did not provide benefits to the public or results in an inconvenience to our customers.”

Damon Hemmerdinger, the mall’s development director, noted that the MTA dropped its original plan to send the bus to Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood – six blocks further than Atlas Park.

He said locals preferred the MTA’s eventual choice: a shorter route and the Q45 turning around in Atlas Park. “The final route is the route that the community leadership asked for,” Hemmerdinger said.

The continuous display of nepotism is disgusting. There is no way the MTA could legitimately justify the rerouting of this route. The reroute comes on a line that was just fine playing the role it did without being changed to benefit a mall. This route will not see any increase in ridership towards the mall so when they look over the numbers, I hope they realize that catering to leadership instead of your customers was clearly uncalled for.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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