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This Budget Is Out of Service
September 21st, 2006

Think those garbled subway announcements are confusing. What about the latest pronouncements from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority itself?

On Tuesday, the MTA said it would cut service and boost fares all to stave off looming billion dollar deficits. Within several hours, MTA chair Peter Kalikow said there would be no such cuts and no fare increase.

This little scare has a happy ending, The Daily News said in an editorial, but once more the riding public suffered whiplash from the confusion surrounding MTA finances. The culprit – not for the first time – was the eternal warning of giant deficits that don’t mesh with the so-far endless growth in receipts that the MTA is enjoying.

MTA officials and observers of transit issues appeared to be caught off-guard by Mr. Kalikow’s abrupt change of course, the Sun reported and then quoted Nysa Pranger, coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign, saying “The chairman’s statement is truly unprecedented.”

The confusion provided an easy target for transit workers union president Roger Toussaint to score points: “We are glad it took Chairman Kalikow only a couple of hours to see the light this time… We stand with the riders when we say that not another dollar should be cut from the service or safety concerns of passengers until the MTA trims the fat from its own bloated administrative staff — they need to cut the suits, not the service.”

Could politics be involved?

The Sun notes, Kalikow’s statement also comes as his stewardship of the MTA may be winding down. Governor Pataki reappointed Mr. Kalikow to another six-year term, but the gubernatorial front-runner, Eliot Spitzer, has said he will try to oust the chairman in January. Mr. Kalikow has vowed to stay on, prompting a possible confrontation if Mr. Spitzer is elected.

And Gothamist points out the whole gambit had Kalikow remaking himself from zero to hero.

Will it work? The Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff tells the Times, “All the big issues are now squarely in the lap of the new governor: fare hike, service cuts, more state aid, MTA. efficiencies.”

Keep that in mind when you’re voting in November, advises Gothamist. Know what the candidates’ platforms about MTA service will be.

By on September 21, 2006, 12:26 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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2 Responses to “This Budget Is Out of Service”

  1. james joseph Says:
    September 21st, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    what a bunch of nonsense.

    i guess the episode shows the power of the new york times. the story was old — it had already been reported in most newspapers. the mta said the fare increase wouldn’t happen until late 2007, if at all. it had been described as a wait-and-see approach.

    at least now they won’t raise fares (by the piddly 5 percent spread over tolls and metrocards) — i hope this doesn’t mean the basic fare will go up by 10 percent in 2008.

    kalikow has been a terrible agency boss — 2 broadway, 2 sets of books, the transit strike. there’s no saving his legacy now. he won’t be in office long.

  2. Larry Littlefield Says:
    September 21st, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    All the big issues are now squarely in the lap of the new governor: fare hike, service cuts, more state aid, MTA. efficiencies.

    Given that “more state aid” mean more taxes, and “efficiencies” generally means nothing good for employees, you can see the choices we have now — all bad. Even with record ridership and a decent economy.

    This is what you get when you keep fares low for years, cut tax dollars going to a service, increase pensions — and borrow and defer costs to pay for it all.

    “The MTA” didn’t decide to do this. Pataki, the state legislature, the former and current Mayors and City Council did. The MTA leadership should not have gone along with it, but it is people who go along who get appointed to jobs like that.

    If this continues, additional “big issues” will be on the lap of a Governor — default and bankrupcy. And not just at the MTA.

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