Every six months it seems, the MTA has the same story – instead of a complete organizational overhaul, an unending string of layoffs, service cuts, and fare hikes will be inflicted on the estimated 10 million passengers who use the subway and bus system every day.
Following March service cuts that went into effect in late June, reports began circulating about the next round of cuts, which is likely to include an increase to single-ride fares and a redefining of the word “unlimited.” According to the Daily News, 30-day “unlimited” cards could be used for up to 90 trips on the system.
The semantic rejection of “unlimited” is supposedly to cut down on fare cheaters who sell a swipe at the turnstile as they leave the system, a practice that could be easily combated by having MTA employees in the stations. But mid-July layoffs included 22 low-level employees who made less that $55,000, while only 5 employees making between $100,000 and $350,000 lost their jobs. MTA layoffs have now topped 1000 employees.
No one wants to revisit the budget crisis that led to the MTA’s decline in the mid-1970s, and the recent service cuts and layoffs are hinting in that direction. That period of ruin was only ended in 1982 when the state created a financing package to help the MTA. Comptroller John Liu has expressed a belief that the MTA’s budget crisis is of its own making, and that the state should not “bail them out.” While Liu is right in assigning blame, this is the wrong position when so many people depend on the availability and efficiency of New York public transit.
The state and city governments should revisit a commuter tax, requiring workers from Westchester and upstate to help pay for the public services that they utilize while working in the city. While these upstate residents pay the 0.34% transportation tax levied last year (just like the rest of us), a modest commuter tax on the suburban counties could raise an estimated $500 million annually, which is 66% of the MTA’s projected budget deficit.
The MTA is looking more and more like a monopolistic boys’ club where fiscal incompetence and corruption is rewarded with unending six-figure salaries.
The MTA should open their books to the public and submit to an organizational overhaul that would address the systemic issues and mismanagement that has plagued the MTA in recent decades.
As a public benefit corporation, the MTA is a public corporation chartered by the state of New York. Like non-profit corporations, PBCs have no owners or stockholders.
The MTA is governed by a 17-member board, most of whom are appointed by the governor. One non-voting seat is reserved for a representative from the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee.
In 2007, the MTA was embroiled in scandal after reports came out that 24,000 EZ-Passes had been given out for free, only 1,000 of which were accounted for.
An independent Authorities Budget Office (ABO) was formed last year to “make public authorities more accountable and transparent.” Its first report is incomplete due to agencies that did not submit information or submitted faulty data.
In 2009, the MTA added $17 billion to the state deficit, bringing its total debt accrued to $28 billion (21% of all state authorities’ debt.)
Diana Jones Ritter was recently named Managing Director of the MTA to oversee cost cutting and efficiency. Her previous public authority tenure was “marred by runaway overtime, nepotism, and wasteful spending,” according to a July 18 Times article.
Phase 1 of the new Second Avenue subway line is already $307 million over budget, and at least a year and a half behind schedule.
A month after budget concerns forced the Department of Health to cut back on rodent control, newspapers reported last week of rats colonies turning up in Metrocard vending machines.
MTA Press Comments
By Katerina Spasov
“At a time when riders are paying more for less and the MTA is throwing station agents and others out of jobs, featherbedding and restrictions that promote idleness are unconscionable.” – Taken from an editorial in the May 12, 2010 issue of the New York Daily News.
“The MTA says only about ten percent of unlimited card buyers go over 90 swipes a month, sources told the New York Daily News.
But those ten percent include messengers, journalists, and others who travel frequently for their jobs--not to mention you social butterflies who use the unlimited cards for personal travel.” – Taken from a July 13, 2010 issue of the New York Daily News, in an article written about putting limits on unlimited weekly and monthly Metrocards.
“There are thousands of Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees – 8,074, to be precise – who made $100,000 or more last year. The usual top-level managers are included in that list, but so are dozens of lower-level employees, including conductors, police officers and engineers, many of whom pulled in six figures in overtime and retirement benefits alone.” – Taken from an article by Michael M. Grynbaum, published in the June 2, 2010 issue of The New York Times.
“The authority, which employs about 70,000 workers over all, cannot significantly reduce its labor costs without concessions from its unions, which say their workers deserve their compensation for difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs.” – Taken from an article by Michael M. Grynbaum, published in the June 2, 2010 issue of The New York Times.
“The MTA won’t be able to lay off any more token booth clerks - or run subway trains without conductors - under a bill that passed the state Senate.” – The ruling was made by Judge Saliann Scarpulla of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
“In a memorandum in opposition to the legislation, the MTA argues the bill would be too costly and unwise. ‘Decisions about transit operations are best made as the result of thorough managerial analysis and review, not mandated by statute or advisory panels,’ the memo states.” – Taken from a New York Daily News article written by Glenn Blain in the June 30, 2010 issue.
“[MTA] board members attacked ‘ridiculous’ union work rules and raises as another reason for the shortfall. ‘The burden shouldn’t just be on the riders,’ said board member Nancy Shevell.” – Taken from a story written by Tom Namako in the March 24, 2010 issue of the New York Post in which services cuts and limitations are discussed.
“’This is just the beginning,’ Bloomberg said today. ‘The next round I would think would be much worse. So save your anger for the next round. Just say thank you that it isn’t any worse with this one,’ he added.” – Taken from a story written by Tom Namako in the March 24, 2010 issue of the New York Post in which services cuts and limitations are discussed.
“The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is tabulating how much it would cost to offer an early-retirement option so it can reduce payroll with voluntary departures instead of layoffs, sources said. The MTA wants Transport Workers Union Local 100 to cover the cost of such a program by agreeing to work-rule changes that would produce savings.” – Taken from the June 1, 2010 issue of the New York Daily News, in an article written by Pete Donohue.