Fare Hike Saviors?

First, we had the New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. strongly appose the MTA’s proposed fare hike. Now we have a second strong opposition of it coming from New York State Comptroller Thomas P. Napoli. Here is a press release courtesy of Mr. Napoli:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) should hold off on its fare hike plans until after the City and the State have fully considered the recommendations of the recently established congestion pricing commission and the MTA’s proposed five-year capital program, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a report released today. The MTA has proposed raising fares and tolls in early 2008 and again in 2010 to help address sizeable looming budget gaps.

“The MTA should put New York’s commuters first,” DiNapoli said. “Before the MTA asks for more money from straphangers, it should develop a coordinated strategy with the State and City to balance its operating budget and to finance the next five-year capital program.

“The MTA has taken some good first steps to develop a long-term plan for its future fiscal health. But talk of a fare hike is premature. The City is trying to reduce congestion and encourage greater use of mass transit. Any fare increase should be the last piece of a comprehensive plan, not the first.”

The DiNapoli report shows that the MTA does not need a fare hike to balance its 2008 budget. The MTA forecasts a 2008 cash balance of $323 million. In addition, the MTA’s financial plan includes $516 million in reserves, and another $781 million that the MTA and the State plan to use for purposes other than balancing the budget.

However, under the MTA’s current timeline, the authority board would vote on a fare and toll hike this December. The MTA has proposed raising fares and tolls by 6.5 percent in 2008 in an effort to balance its budget in 2009 and another 5 percent in 2010 as part of its plan to index fares to inflation and to implement adjustments every other year. The MTA board vote would occur shortly before the Governor releases an Executive Budget that could include unanticipated new resources for mass transit, and before the State Legislature considers in March the recommendations of the congestion pricing commission, which also could result in new resources for mass transit, the DiNapoli report indicates.

“The MTA needs a commitment from its traditional financing partners so it can balance its operating budget and finance needed capital improvements while keeping mass transit affordable to commuters,” DiNapoli said, noting that the MTA will be unable to guarantee that future fare increases will be limited to inflation if it does not receive more assistance from its partners.

The DiNapoli report also shows:

  • Although the MTA’s July Plan forecasts a record year-end cash balance of $960 million for 2007, it expects budget gaps to grow to nearly $2.1 billion by 2011 from $965 million in 2008;
  • Authority spending is projected to exceed the level projected by the MTA two years ago by an average of about $435 million during each of calendar years 2007 through 2009;
  • The MTA saved only $12.3 million from management actions planned for 2006, which is just 41 percent of its target savings;
  • The MTA will need $18.8 billion to maintain the existing mass transit system and additional funds to continue key expansion projects;
  • Debt service — which is expected to grow to $2 billion by 2011 from $1.3 billion in 2006 — and health insurance costs will grow to account for nearly half of the 2011 budget gap; and,
  • The MTA plan to narrow the out-year gaps assumes it will receive more than $600 million annually in new governmental aid beginning in 2010. If these or other anticipated resources do not materialize, the MTA will face budget gaps that exceed $1 billion beginning in 2010. Closing a gap of this magnitude would require fare and toll increases of 20 percent on top of the MTA’s proposal to raise fares and tolls by 11.5 percent by 2010.
  • The report also notes that ridership on subways, buses, and commuter rails has reached the highest level in decades, increasing by 2.5 percent in 2006, and is projected to rise by an additional 1.6 percent this year.

    I am impressed with 2 high ranking officials speaking out against a ridiculous proposal. Lets hope for our sake these opinions are based on facts & not PR moves to get face time!

    If you are interested in reading the entire report from Mr. Napoli, click here.

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    Subway Supervisor Had A Role In Transit Worker Death

    A recent investigation has led to the demotion of superintendent Lloyd London. His demotion comes as the result of his actions which investigators feel led to the death of track worker Marvin Franklin. If you do not recall the tragic death, you can read about it here. Here is a story about the investigation courtesy of the NY Times:

    The superintendent who investigators said was partly responsible for the death of a subway track worker has been demoted and will be assigned to a job as a cleaner, a person with knowledge of the disciplinary action said yesterday.

    The superintendent, Lloyd London, was in charge of a small group of workers at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station in Downtown Brooklyn on April 29, when a G train struck and killed Marvin Franklin, 55, a veteran track worker.

    Mr. Franklin and another worker, Jeff Hill, were carrying a heavy piece of equipment across the tracks when the G train suddenly appeared around a curve. The train also struck Mr. Hill, who survived with injuries.

    A board of inquiry impaneled by New York City Transit found that Mr. London had “the greatest culpability” for the accident.

    The investigation found that Mr. London had told the workers that he would act as a flagman and watch for oncoming trains, but then failed to do so.

    In carrying the equipment across the active tracks, the workers were breaking several safety rules, and the investigation found that Mr. London should have ordered Mr. Franklin and Mr. Hill to take a safer route.

    Mr. London denied saying that he would act as a flagman, but the investigators said his account was contradicted by the testimony of other witnesses.

    According to a person with access to documents relating to Mr. London’s disciplinary proceeding, Mr. London agreed on Thursday to be reassigned to a job as a cleaner, rather than be fired.

    The action also barred him from ever holding a “safety-sensitive” job at the agency, including working on the tracks or operating a train.

    Mr. London had been a track worker for several years before receiving training as a supervisor in May 2006. He had been a supervisor for less than a year at the time the accident occurred.

    A spokesman for Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, which represents Mr. London, said union officials would not comment on his case.

    A spokesman for New York City Transit could not be reached last night.

    The most pathetic thing is how Mr. London can sit there & deny what he said. A life was lost but instead of seeing that, he worries about covering his own ass. In my opinion, the man should be fired as he clearly is not mature enough to accept responsibility for his actions!

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    Oh No!!!!

    September 5th & 6th might be days I stay away from the subway! Two days after a major vacation season & Labor Day weekend end, the Taxi Workers Alliance plan to strike! The TWI is going to strike due to the Taxi and Limousine Commission plans to install GPS technology in the city’s 13,000 taxis. Here is an article with more details about the planned strike courtesy of NY1:

    Less than two weeks from now, the city may find itself without a major form of transportation. Some yellow taxi drivers announced Thursday that they are set to go on strike over a controversial new technology. NY1’s Transit Reporter Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

    The Taxi Workers Alliance says that at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, September 5th its members will go on a 48-hour strike.

    “No taxis would be operating on the roads,” said Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. “We’re asking drivers to keep their cars parked either on the streets or leave them at the garage.”

    At issue is a new GPS system, a satellite-tracking technology the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is requiring in all 13,000 of the city’s yellow cabs. It’s just one in a package of technology improvements that also includes a credit card reader and a video screen in every backseat.

    The TLC says GPS will allow riders to track their trip on an electronic map, and make it easier to recover lost property. But the Taxi Workers Alliance calls it an invasion of privacy, arguing drivers’ movements could be tracked even while off-duty – and that any technological snafu will cost them.

    “The technology, if it shuts down, the meter shuts down,” said Desai. “If the meter shuts down, the drivers cannot pick up a fare.”

    Right now, the group claims about 10,000 members and is working to recruit more.

    Whether the TWA can get all 44,000 of the city’s yellow cab drivers to go out on strike is not entirely clear. One rival group, the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said on Thursday that its members will continue to drive.

    “We are going to let our drivers know, there is no strike. Go to work. Do what you have to do. Put food on the table for your family,” said NYS Federation of Taxi Drivers President Fernando Mateo.

    But Mateo’s group only claims about six or seven thousand drivers. And some drivers without any allegiance might still participate in a strike.

    “The GPS does not bother me,” said one cab driver NY1 spoke to. “The credit card thing does not bother me. The whole thing doesn’t bother me. I don’t know what’s the sweat’s about. [But], I wouldn’t cross the picket line, no.”

    TLC Chairman Matthew Daus points out drivers have benefited from two taxi fare increases in the last few years.

    “Riders have paid an additional $1 billion directly to drivers’ pockets, (and) were promised technology enhancements in return,” said Daus in a statement.

    With the TLC apparently unwilling to budge, it seems some kind of strike is a real possibility, though just how widespread is anyone’s guess.

    – Bobby Cuza

    I can actually see both sides of the issue here (save the John Kerry jokes please). On one hand, the updated equipment can be seen as a huge victory for passengers. On the other hand, I can see how such an expensive upgrade can eat into what is already a stretched thin pool of money. One major concern I can agree with is the possible loss of fares.

    As of now, if the new machines go down, it is taking the fare meter with it. If the fare meter goes down, drivers would lose out on fares. In my opinion, drivers should not have to lose money based on city mandated technology. This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. Maybe some sort of insurance fund can be set into place for lost fares. However this fund should come at no extra cost to the driver.

    The flip side of this debate comes from individuals who feel this is a non issue. Some are of the feeling that the drivers have won out with recent fare hikes. So with this being the case, it is time to give back to the consumer.
    Either way this will be a definite hot button issue for the next couple of weeks!

    I wonder if livery cabs will worm their way deeper into Manhattan to make some extra money. I know I would if I was them!

    I can only imagine the hell that will be the NYC Subway during this strike! Imagine the scene of snobs who think they are too good for the subway having to ride with the so called “common folk”. Can anyone not see at least a couple of incidents stemming from this strike!

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    Google Transit Coming Soon…..?

    So Google Transit will soon be mapping the entire New York City Transit system. Here is an article about it courtesy of Bloomberg:

    Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) — Google Inc., owner of the most popular Internet search engine, provides online transit guides for more than a dozen U.S. cities including Dallas and San Diego. Now it may take on the biggest.

    New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New Jersey Transit, which together carry more than 9 million people a day, are working with the company to give users one place to go for maps, schedules and trip planners. The agencies serve the five New York City boroughs and suburbs in New Jersey, Connecticut, Westchester County and Long Island.

    “We are always looking for ways to incorporate technology in what we do,” Jim Redeker, assistant executive director of New Jersey Transit, said in a telephone interview from Newark. Google has “good experience at making this work.”

    Google, based in Mountain View, California, introduced its online guides in 2005. They are designed to show transit users how to navigate systems, and to boost Google’s revenue from selling ads to restaurants, hotels and other local businesses.

    U.S. companies spent about $922 million last year to place ads alongside local searches and maps, according to Kelsey Group Inc., a market research firm in Princeton, New Jersey. That will almost triple to $2.61 billion by 2011, the researcher says.

    Thinking Local

    Google probably got about $500 million in sales last year from local ads, or about 8 percent of its U.S. revenue of $6 billion, said Greg Sterling, an analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence in San Francisco.

    Google doesn’t disclose its local ad revenue, and Christoph Oehler, product manager for maps and transit, declined to say whether the company is negotiating with the New York and New Jersey agencies.

    New Jersey Transit plans to share maps and schedules with Google as part of a pilot program to post more information about the system on the Web, Redeker said. MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin confirmed the New York agency is also working with Google Transit. He declined to give specifics.

    The company’s shares rose $2.81 to $515 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Google’s stock has climbed 12 percent this year.

    The metropolitan New York market would be the biggest and most complicated Google has tried to crack with its online guide. The New York MTA had 8.27 million daily riders as of Dec. 31 and runs the city’s subway and buses and the Long Island and Metro- North railroads, the busiest U.S. commuter lines. The system has 468 subway stations, 35 fewer than in all other U.S. cities combined.

    New Jersey Transit, the largest statewide public transportation system in the U.S., carries about 857,000 passengers daily on buses, commuter trains and light-rail lines.

    Door to Door

    With the Google Transit online trip planner, a user enters a start and end address or landmark and gets automated directions, including schedules and transfer points. Bus ridership in Duluth, Minnesota, increased 12 percent since the Google system was added to its Web site last year, said Tom Elwell, marketing director for the local transit authority.

    “Customers don’t care what agency is running what, they just want to know how to get from one door to the next,” said Allison de Cerreño, director of New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management.

    Some agencies, including New York’s MTA and New Jersey Transit, have trip planners on their own Web sites, as does HopStop.com Inc., a New York company started in 2004 that offers planners for cities including New York, Boston and Chicago.

    Travelers may be more inclined to get directions from Google because they already use its other mapping services, rather than trying to navigate local transit Web sites.

    “Most people know Google,” said Cerreño, who walked more than 20 blocks to her job when she came to New York two decades ago because she was daunted by the subway. “That’s actually a very powerful way to get the information in one place, in a way that most people are familiar with.”

    My question is what can’t Google do?…………….

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    J, Z, & L You’re Up!

    Starting today & through Thursday, the MTA is handing out rider report cards for the J, Z, & L lines. If you don’t know or remember what rider report cards are, here is an entry about them.

    I will be the first to say I do not ride these lines on a daily basis. Actually I have never rode the Z train! So I will comment on them based on my experiences.

    I have always seen the J train as a line that does just enough but could & should do much more. My main beef with the line is the waiting times. It seems like no mater when I ride the J, I have to wait at least 10 minutes before it shows up. This is unacceptable at most times of the day!

    The L line is a little bit better as far as waiting is concerned. My main problem with the L is the lack of seating. I would say a good 95% of the time I ride this line, I am forced to stand. The only reason this isn’t a big deal is because I am usually getting off within 2-4 stops from where I got on.

    I do have one question about these report cards though. The report cards are handed out it seems one line or trunk line at a time. Why is that happening when all the lines are up for voting on the MTA website? Anyone have an answer for me? I’m quite curious!

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