The Gallery Chimes In
March 17th, 2009

Though some are satisfied with the State Senate’s proposal to bailout the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, others think it’s more like treading water.

Here is a sampling of statements:

From the Carol Kellermann, President of the Citizens Budget Commission:

“The MTA is a critical component of the economic engine of the New York metropolitan area. It must be shored up financially, not just one year at a time, but on a permanent, more rational basis. Partial year-to-year solutions such as the one put forward today by the Senate Majority do not address the problem and are no substitute for the more comprehensive and long-lasting reforms that are needed.

These include: a funding formula that would permit automatic fare increases that achieve and maintain an equitable share of costs to be born by riders, increased revenues from auto users to cross subsidize a public transportation system that helps to reduce pollution and congestion, and improved transparency of MTA finances and operations to ensure that public funds entrusted to the agency are well used. Under the State Senate plan, MTA riders will continue to face constant threats of service cuts, much larger fare hikes and deterioration in the quality of the system due to lack of capital investment.”

From comptroller and mayoral candidate William C. Thompson Jr.:

“The Senate Majoritys efforts to address the MTAs deficit while avoiding vast service cuts and an overwhelming fare hike is an important first step to protect the working people and all New Yorkers who depend on transit.

“The Senates proposal also rejects the inequitable proposal for East River and Harlem River bridge tolls, which I opposed because they would unfairly target residents and small business owners in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and Upper Manhattan.

“I remain a strong believer in charging all those who benefit from mass transit for mass transit, which includes drivers. My proposal for a weight-based vehicle registration across the 12-county MTA region would do just that, and I hope it will be considered as the debate over the capital program continues.”

From councilmember and comptroller candidate John Liu:

“The State Senate has addressed the unfortunate necessity to bail out the MTA. Our transit system will remain intact for New York’s future under this plan, which spreads the burden broadly and equitably across the region, and avoids an inefficient, highly divisive and utterly unnecessary scheme to toll bridges. No solution to the current MTA quagmire is easy but the Senate plan is just.”

By on March 17, 2009, 1:33 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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3 Responses to “The Gallery Chimes In”

  1. Ruben Safir Says:
    March 17th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    If the MTA doesn’t like treding water with my money, let them QUIT

    It is 100% correct that the MTA must be broken up and theyre books are
    not audited every year.

    There priorities are audited even less often

    The MTA has bit off more than we can afford and doesnt need my bridges.
    It needs to scale back its plans and restrict its programs to projects
    that NYC can afford.

    Since it doesnt come under anyones jurisdiction, it wont do that.
    Instead to uses the agency for pork barrel politics around the region
    and picks on the weakest hand in its grip, the outer boroughs of NYC, to
    exploit for its own unneeded agenda.

    It doesnt need a 15.2 billion dollar east side access program for the
    LIRR. Scratch that off the list, and the Fulton Street program and the
    pork west side extension that was traded for a westside stadium project,
    and the MTA has a surplus.

    So they are lying to us. Plane and simple.

    Ruben Safir

  2. Ruben Safir Says:
    March 17th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    The Metropolitan Transit Authority is the single biggest threat to the
    long term stability of New York City. It has been standing on the throat
    of this city for decades, squeezing the economic life blood from this
    town. It has proven to be an irresponsible steward of this cities
    transportation network. It has political muscle and protection unlike
    any organization in our government. Unlike a private enterprise, it has
    no need to constrain its budget for the purposes of profitability.
    Unlike a government organization, it escapes any kind of voter over site
    at the ballot box. We are all victims of the MTA and its reckless use of
    government funds, and misguided priorities. This people, the voters of
    the City of New York, can never give the MTA enough funds to satiate its
    endless budget. Every dollar they acquire, they budget for completely,
    and then they spend one more. The MTA must die if the City of New York is
    to live.

    First of all, every citizen of this city needs to come to understand the
    basic facts of the MTA. It is an independent authority chartered under
    New York State Law which has no over site. It has an independent agenda.
    That agenda benefits the MTA, and is not designed to benefit New
    Yorkers. The MTA is not our friend, nor does it respond to our needs,
    and most of all it does not respond to public pressure or scrutiny. It
    borrows money and leaves the bills for the taxpayer and straphangers. It
    subsidizes suburban growth, and leaves the bill for the inner city
    working class. It buys glitzy toys, like underground radio systems, a
    connection for the LIRR to Grand Central Station along with the building
    of a new level at the terminal, it buys a new extension of the 7 train to
    the Javits Center, new cars with digital signage, elevators, and electronic
    billboards, it builds a completely uneeded new station complex at Fulton
    Street to bribe politicians who can’t figure out how to rebuild the WTC,
    but it ignores basic safety and traffic needs like switches and steel rails,
    station maintenance, and subway cars with enough signs to know what
    train your hoping on without needing to look over the platform with the
    train arriving. And then they spend hundreds of millions of dollars to
    preach to us. Dont run up the escalator, Dont lean over the platform
    (so then how do we know what train is coming since they have removed
    most of the side car signage), dont walk between cars (which was really
    useful at stopping over crowding for nearly a hundred years before some
    idiot decided it was too dangerous), pick up your trash, and give your
    seat to a pregnant women.nough. We cant take it any more. In 2000 the
    MTA tried to ram part two
    of its capital budget program down our throats, by permitting the MTA
    more borrowing than it could ever afford, about 1.6 billion dollars with
    another 2.2 billion dollars of pork for upstate highways and roads. It
    was rejected soundly by the voters of New York State. But the MTA is
    like a fly. If you swat it away, it just comes back. In 2005 the MTA
    launched an education program for yet another statewide referendum,

    this time worth 2.9 billion dollars in funding. In 1995 the New York
    Times reported that State lawmakers were aghast at the 4.5 billion
    dollars that the MTA would need to borrow between 1997 and 1999. Thats
    right, weve been playing this game for a very long time. And the major
    infrastructure we got was the retirement of the perfectly usable Red
    Bird Cars on the IRT, and the completely unnecessary electronic signal
    system for the L train. Is it that hard to safely run trains on a
    line that has exactly one outbound and one inbound track that we had
    to pay almost a billion dollars for it? And with looming service cutbacks
    was it worth it? And the station rehabilitations that were necessary,
    did we get them? Well? Maybe, sort of. They cost us way to much and
    took way too long according to Joseph Rappaport of the Straphangers
    Campaign All were getting in station rehabs is what we were already
    promised, and were getting it three years late and having to shell out
    more in the fare to get it.

    In 2003 the MTA attempted to side step the whole process when it created
    YET ANOTHER corporation in their authority with the creation of the
    Capital Construction Company with responsibility for overseeing system
    expansion projects for all MTA companies and managing their bonds. The
    latest
    plan for the MTA is for the state to do the same for the bond driven capital
    program through a charter. So then well have yet another organization
    completely disenfranchised from the Citys electorate or even sensitive to
    the operations or fare burden, and which can raise fares and taxes without
    any over site whatsoever. Oh, and for those not watching, you should note
    that the latest Richard Ravitch plan calls for the elimination of public
    hearings for fare hikes.

    Dont you love the Metrocard. Fares can be raised at will with a few key
    strokes.

    Yet between 1981 and 1991 over 16 billion dollars was spent on MTA
    capitalization. And that barely made a dent. The 2001 capital program
    borrowed money for a 1.1 billion dollar expansion of the LIRR to reach
    Grand Central Station. Who from the city would want this at the cost of
    a 2 dollar fare hike and service shutdowns? But these proposals go
    through the Capital Program review board which the Mayor is outnumbered
    by statewide office holders 3 to 1. And that is how we get this shoved
    down our throats. And when horse trading erupted over the 2nd avenue
    subway for the LIRR expansion the MTA responded with a two tier bond
    program that brought out older less expensive dept for a greater new
    bond act over a longer time. Predictions at the time were that this
    massive debt would cause fares to skyrocket up to $4.00. But that is not
    the MTAs problem. Its just the problem of the poor guy schlepping to
    work or ibringing his family around to the museum from Brooklyn and Queens.
    It was known as a fact that this program would put massive pressure on
    MTAs
    finances between 2005-2009, just as it has. And the program in 2000 was
    decried by everyone in the know about the MTA including the then former
    MTA chair Robert R. Kiley and Gene Russianoff, the same lawyer pushing
    not for east river bridge tolls, and who both wrote jointly at the time,
    In sum, it is our conclusion that the plan not only does not fund new
    capacity, it threatens the ability of the MTA to continue its State of
    Good Repair program for this and future plans.
    Need to see more? In February of 2004 the Mayor took the MTA to court to
    stop it from funneling monies for the Subway to buy new Metro North cars
    (NY Times: Feb 26th, 2004). The New York Times wrote then:

    The mayor is trying to exert influence on an obscure state panel that
    has the power to deny the $230 million in financing that the
    Metropolitan Transportation Authority needs for the new rail cars. He is
    also considering going to court over the issue if necessary, according
    to a senior aide to Mr. Bloomberg who spoke only on condition of
    anonymity.

    Then in December of 2004 the Times published this:

    Four years ago, the governor of New York and leading state legislators
    gave permission for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to pay off
    old bonds by borrowing $14 billion, creating a steep pile of new debt
    for a transit system filled with ancient structures, middle-aged
    equipment and little money to replace them.

    Today, with the M.T.A. facing short- and long-range financial crises,
    the public benefit of that decision remains a matter of vigorous
    dispute.

    On April 3rd, 2000 the Times published this little tidbit:

    In the last month, government and private analysts have developed a
    striking consensus that the Metropolitan Transportation Authoritys
    five-year, $16.5 billion capital improvement plan is a
    disaster-in-waiting, built on a mountain of borrowed money, that would
    force a major fare increase.

    They say the crush of debt would cripple the authoritys ability to keep
    New York Citys subways and buses and the commuter railroads in good
    repair, and would make the financing of future capital plans nearly
    impossible. The plan would require by far the largest sale of municipal
    bonds in history, more than $20 billion.

    October 3rd, 2004:

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is projecting budget deficits
    of more than a billion dollars in the coming years, and another round of
    fare increases and service cuts appears imminent. But now transportation
    authority officials want to spend even more money to continue to
    maintain the system, and even the authoritys critics are hard-pressed
    to fault them for it.

    The trouble is, no one has quite figured out how to pay for the
    improvements.

    I dont think theres any question that more money is needed for the
    systems operation and for upkeep and maintenance, said Doug Turetsky,
    a spokesman for the Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan city
    agency, on the financial quandary. The question is where those
    resources are going to come from.

    On the authoritys shopping list: more than $17 billion in system
    upgrades and replacement of old equipment, $500 million for security
    improvements and several billion dollars for expansion projects,
    including the building of the first phase of the long-awaited Second
    Avenue subway and connecting the Long Island Rail Road with Grand
    Central Terminal.
    It is all part of the authoritys proposed five-year capital improvement
    plan for 2005 to 2009, sent to Albany last week for approval. Making his
    priority clear, Peter S. Kalikow, the authoritys chairman, said he
    would be willing to sacrifice the highly publicized expansion projects
    if it meant protecting the $17 billion for the existing system.

    This is the minimum number that we will accept, he said Wednesday at
    the authoritys board meeting. Its the minimum number to keep the
    system running.

    It will be up to lawmakers, however, to wrangle over how to come up with
    the money, or if they even can.

    The problem is a familiar one for the authority. Similar hand-wringing
    accompanied the passage of the authoritys current $19 billion capital
    program for 2000 to 2004. In the end, much of that program was paid for
    by bonds, repaid out of riders fares. But that has left the authority
    facing a mountain of debt. Payments coming due on that debt are at the
    core of the authoritys struggle with its operating budget.

    As Gene Russianoff, a staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a
    transit advocacy group, put it, Their credit card is maxed out.

    Authority officials have made clear that issuing more debt, paid for by
    riders, would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

    October 25th, 2005:

    New Yorks city and suburban transit network faces enormous,
    fast-growing debts and budget deficits, with no clear plan for
    addressing them. It raised fares last year, plans to raise them again
    next year and warns that it may do so again in 2006.

    This is not a surprise to people who monitor the Metropolitan
    Transportation Authority. The current situation was predicted four years
    ago by, among others, former top transit officials, fiscal watchdogs
    like the Independent Budget Office and the Citizens Budget Commission,
    the state comptroller, business groups like the New York City
    Partnership and transit advocates like the Regional Plan Association and
    the Straphangers Campaign.

    The financial problems, critics contend, are the direct result of more
    than a decade of policies by New York State, New York City, and the
    authority, which operates the citys subways, buses, bridges and
    tunnels, and the Metro-North and Long Island commuter railroads. In
    particular, they point to a $17 billion capital maintenance and
    expansion program adopted four years ago that was broadly denounced at
    the time as a fiscal time bomb.

    March 6th 2003:

    The decision of transit officials to propose substantial fare increases
    to close a budget shortfall has not ended a bitter political fight about
    whether the public should be given more information about the
    Metropolitan Transportation Authoritys budget.

    The state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, a Democrat, has subpoenaed 18
    cartons of budget documents from the authority and forced three of its
    top budget officials to give lengthy depositions about their
    bookkeeping. He vowed today to continue that inquiry to its conclusion
    no matter what the authoritys board decides on Thursday when it votes
    on the fare increase.

    Both Mr. Hevesi and the New York City comptroller, William C. Thompson
    Jr., called on the authoritys board to postpone the vote Thursday until
    Mr. Hevesis office completed its review of the authoritys books.

    MTA debt is what is driving up the fares of the MTA. They have been
    rolling in public financed doe through out the fat years and now they
    must face the reality of a deep recession and a declining City economy.
    And it is LONG time for New York City to get its SUBWAY BACK without the
    interference of Albany. It is time for the Queen of Hearts and to stop
    the lies that our current state legislator is somehow responsible for
    the MTAs crimes. If a massive fair hike comes on March 25th, it will be
    squarely the fault of the MTA. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS. It is high time to
    end the MTA

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    May 25th, 2010 at 8:25 pm

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