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Agglomeration
May 15th, 2003, 01:15 AM
Fare hikes? Roll 'em back! judge says

MTA has two weeks to restore $1.50 fare to transit system

By SAMUEL MAULL
Associated Press Writer

A Manhattan judge ordered the nation's largest transit agency to roll back fare increases for millions of commuters, responding to a commuter group's lawsuit that accused the agency of misleading the public about its finances.
State Supreme Court Justice Louis York's order applies to more than 7 million daily riders who began paying a 50-cent fare increase on subways and buses as of May 4 and to more than 400,000 daily commuters on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road suburban trains.

His ruling followed a lawsuit by the Straphangers Campaign, a commuter group that charged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority violated the law by failing to make its financial situation clear before scheduling public hearings on the fare increase.

Commuters cheered the ruling.

"That's great" said subway rider Andy Fontanez, a 26-year-old Starbucks employee, at the Rockefeller Center station. "It helps me a lot because I would be spending about $35 more a month commuting."

The judge said the MTA should put the rollback into place within two weeks. He said the March 6 decision to raise fares an average 33.3 percent on buses and subways "should be vacated because the determination was reached in violation of lawful procedure and not rationally based."

"As a result, the May 2003 fare increases implemented pursuant to the board's March 6 determination will be rolled back to the date of the increase," he said. "In order to allow respondents to implement the changes efficiently, the court will allow them two weeks to roll back the fares."

MTA lawyers argued during hearings earlier this month that it would be a logistical nightmare to reverse fare increases. One lawyer had said 12,000 pieces of equipment, including all 4,500 city buses, would need to be retrofitted to accept $1.50 fares instead of $2 fares.

The MTA said the procedure would cost $2 million and cost the agency $1.2 million a day in lost revenue.

York's ruling said that the rollback should be "retroactive" to the date that it took place but didn't make clear whether that meant customers who had paid the higher fares should also receive refunds.

MTA officials, who can appeal the ruling, didn't immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.

The judge said the notice that the MTA posted for a public hearing process for the transit fare increase was "invalid," supporting the Straphangers Campaign's arguments that the failure to reveal everything about its financial condition made the hearing process meaningless.

The Straphangers on April 30 asked York to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the fare increase from taking effect in the first place. York denied the request, saying it would be too costly for the MTA to make the switch if he eventually ruled in the agency's favor.

"This is really a victory for truth and government," said Gene Russianoff, attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. "Clearly the court saw that the MTA was misleading the riding public."

The revelations about the agency's finances were contained in budget reviews issued last month by city Comptroller William Thompson and state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who called Wednesday's ruling "a great victory for all New Yorkers."

The lawsuit argued that the MTA concealed more than $500 million in projected surplus to make its finances look worse than they were. MTA officials argued they publicly referred to the fact that the agency would use savings to pay off future debt, although they acknowledged they explained themselves poorly.

The MTA had argued it needed to raise fares to close a deficit it estimated at different times ranged from $952 million to $2.8 billion. It also decided to close 62 station booths; the judge said in his ruling that that decision must also be reversed.

Originally published on May 14, 2003

(Edited by Agglomeration at 12:15 am on May 15, 2003)

ZippyTheChimp
May 15th, 2003, 08:47 AM
:)

It may be short-lived, but a nice punch in the nose to the MTA.

DominicanoNYC
May 15th, 2003, 01:26 PM
Yahoo! In your face MTA. Too bad they're going to appel the desicion, but I hope that if it is raised again that it only be to 1.75.

Agglomeration
May 15th, 2003, 01:50 PM
I'm already suspecting that there are similar cover-ups and backroom deals at the LMDC and the WTC rebuilding process as a whole. This backdoor deal method is probably what gave us Libeskind's design. Needless to say, congratulations to the Straphangers for helping to blow this deceit out into the open. :cool:

TLOZ Link5
May 15th, 2003, 10:29 PM
Hopefully they'll bring the token back also. *Or at least allow people to pay in change on the subway.

Kris
May 16th, 2003, 05:48 AM
May 16, 2003

Transit Agency to Appeal Judge's Order to Roll Back Fares

By RANDY KENNEDY

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority filed papers yesterday saying that it would appeal a Manhattan judge's order to roll back transit and commuter rail fares, setting off an automatic stay of the ruling.

The order on Wednesday by Judge Louis B. York of State Supreme Court gave the authority two weeks to reprogram turnstiles, buses and fare machines to the old levels, saying that the authority had violated the law by misleading the public about its finances.

But under state law, the M.T.A.'s notice of appeal stops that two-week clock, and sets the stage for arguments, possibly by the end of the month, before the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court.

In a slightly unusual move, the M.T.A.'s lawyers agreed yesterday with the Straphangers Campaign, the riders' advocacy group that had filed a lawsuit against the fare increases, to ask the Appellate Division to speed up the schedule for hearing the case, which could normally take six to eight months. Both sides are hoping to have a decision within two to three weeks.

Peter S. Kalikow, the authority's chairman, said in a statement, "This is not fair to our customers to be on an emotional roller coaster like this, and we'd like to get it resolved as soon as possible."

Lawyers for transit riders and commuters said yesterday that they were disappointed that Justice York's rollback order did not include scheduled increases in bridge and tunnel tolls.

Those tolls — 50 cents more on major M.T.A. bridges, like the Triborough Bridge, and 25 cents more on smaller bridges — are scheduled to increase at 3 a.m. Sunday. But the office of State Senator David A. Paterson of Manhattan, one of the originators of the fare lawsuit, said it was working to file papers with Justice York asking him to rescind the toll increases, too.

In his decision on Wednesday, Justice York ruled that 10 public hearings held by the authority in February to solicit riders' opinions about the proposed fare increases were "based on the false and misleading premise that the M.T.A. was in worse financial condition than it knew itself to be."

Notices for the hearings, posted in subway stations and at bus stops, said the authority faced a $2.8 billion shortfall over the next two years. But Justice York called that a "fictitious gap," and added that the misinformation "had a chilling effect on the public, discouraging an open and complete discussion of the proposals and foreclosing the presentation of creative alternatives."

Even if the suit is successful, it will only require the authority to hold new public hearings, based on more accurate information.

The authority, which has broad powers under state law to determine fares, is likely to vote to reinstate the increases it approved in March and put into effect earlier this month.

The authority's officials have said repeatedly that if they had waited until next year to raise fares, the budget shortfall caused by that delay would have forced them to raise base transit fares in 2004 even higher than $2 — perhaps to as much as $2.35.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

ZippyTheChimp
May 16th, 2003, 10:08 AM
Peter S. Kalikow, the authority's chairman, said in a statement, "This is not fair to our customers to be on an emotional roller coaster like this, and we'd like to get it resolved as soon as possible."
Pete, have you no shame?

enzo
May 17th, 2003, 12:29 AM
"Shame" is a lost concept at the MTA as is the term "customers".

DominicanoNYC
May 26th, 2003, 02:33 PM
They haven't lowered the fare yet!!!!:(

ZippyTheChimp
June 5th, 2003, 08:38 AM
More bad news for the MTA

June 5, 2003

Judge Orders Toll Rollback at Crossings, Ruling Against M.T.A. Echoes Decision on Fares

By RANDY KENNEDY


State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday to roll back toll increases on several bridges and tunnels, saying that the authority deliberately misled the public about its finances before it approved the increases.

In practical terms, the ruling will have no immediate effect for the millions of drivers who use the seven bridges and two tunnels controlled by the authority, because an appeal and an automatic stay are likely. But the ruling represents another serious blow for the authority, after a different judge ordered it last month to roll back fare increases on subways, buses and commuter rail lines.

The authority has been widely criticized over the last several months for insularity and deception in the way it approved the increases, the first in almost eight years.

The decision yesterday by Justice Robert D. Lippmann closely paralleled the one last month by Justice Louis B. York. But Justice Lippmann's ruling was much more strident in its criticism of the M.T.A.'s actions leading up to the fare and toll increases, and its conduct even before that.

Justice Lippmann wrote that officials of the authority had "displayed a pattern of untrammeled arrogance and deception and a disdain for the public they were obligated to serve."

He said the evidence showed that "during the past few months, and probably years, the M.T.A. has been operating in a manner inconsistent with the legislative intent" of the state's Public Authorities Law.

He added, "Permanent remedies for the M.T.A.'s misconduct lie with the governor, the Legislature and the comptroller, not the courts."

But the courts had the power to order toll increases rolled back, he wrote, for the same reason that transit fares had been ordered rolled back: riders and elected officials were given misleading information before a series of legally mandated public hearings held in February.

The hearings, Justice Lippmann wrote, were "fundamentally flawed" because the authority, in notices posted in hundreds of subway stations and other places, had led the public to believe that it was facing a budget gap of $2.8 billion, when the number was closer to $1 billion.

The Automobile Club of New York, which filed the lawsuit challenging the toll increases, also cited reports issued in April by both the city and state comptroller that contended that the authority had engaged in numerous deceitful practices, including secretly shifting more than $500 million in surplus money from 2002 to 2003 and 2004 to build a better case for an immediate fare increase.

"Had the true financial facts been known," Justice Lippmann wrote, echoing Justice York, "the public testimony in opposition to fare and toll hikes would undoubtedly have been far more vigorous, spirited and persuasive."

Unlike the M.T.A., the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, an affiliate of the M.T.A. that controls the bridges and tunnels and their tolls, is not legally required to hold public hearings in advance of a vote to increase tolls.

But the M.T.A. included the issue of toll increases in the series of 10 public hearings regarding transit fares that were held around the region.

And in his ruling, Justice Lippmann pointed out that, under state law, even when a public hearing is conducted voluntarily, the law still requires the authority to provide accurate information to the public in notices about the hearing.

Justice Lippmann's ruling gives the authority 10 days to come up with a way to refund the extra money that drivers have paid since tolls increased on May 18. But that timetable will probably be shelved until the authority's appeal is heard.

If the authority loses the appeal, it could be required to repeat the process of approving toll increases. But under state law the authority has broad power to set tolls and could simply vote to return them to the present rate.

In March, the M.T.A. board voted to increase tolls by 50 cents on the Throgs Neck Bridge, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, the Triborough Bridge, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. On the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the increase was $1. Tolls were raised by 25 cents on the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge and the Cross Bay-Veterans' Memorial Bridge. Beyond saying that they would appeal the case, transit officials declined to comment yesterday on the ruling or Justice Lippmann's criticism. A spokesman for the Automobile Club of New York said the organization was ecstatic.

"With such strongly worded language, a light has been shown on the actions of the M.T.A.," said the spokesman, Robert O. Sinclair Jr.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
July 15th, 2003, 06:44 PM
July 15, 2003

Court Sides With M.T.A. in Toll Hike Dispute

NEW YORK (AP) -- The MTA had the legal right to raise the city's transit fares and tolls, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling was a loss for the Straphangers Campaign, a transit advocacy group that had previously convinced two lower court judges to roll back bus, subway and commuter train fares as well as tolls on city bridges and tunnels.

On May 4, New York's transit agency, the MTA, the nation's largest with 7 million daily riders, raised fares from $1.50 to $2 -- its first hike since 1995 -- to help eliminate a budget deficit variously estimated from $952 million to $2.8 billion.

The latest ruling favored arguments by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency that oversees NYC Transit.

The state appeals court reversed the two lower court decisions that had ordered the rollback, which had not taken effect.

The Straphangers Campaign, a transit advocacy group, planned to appeal, said its staff attorney, Gene Russianoff. `We will appeal on behalf of riders and all New Yorkers who want honest, open government,` he said.

`We believe that the MTA clearly violated state law when it concealed information critical to informed public discussion and issued notices for public hearings designed to mislead and disinform,` said Brian O'Dwyer, another lawyer for the group.

The Straphangers scheduled a news conference for later Tuesday afternoon.

`We're disappointed,` said Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of New York. He said lawyers would review the decision before deciding whether to appeal to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow called Tuesday's ruling `appropriate and proper` and said the state-run agency's decision to raise fares and tolls this year `was a difficult decision made in the best interests of our regional transportation system.`

City Comptroller William C. Thompson, who with state Comptroller Alan Hevesi issued two reports in April that revealed the diversion of more than $500 million to future MTA budgets, said the rulings should be overturned.

`The issue remains clear: The public should not have to pay a fare hike that was adopted without clear and accurate evidence that it was necessary,` Thompson said.

Hevesi said he would soon issue regulations to improve the MTA's financial reporting procedures.

The MTA has already agreed to release its budget information earlier, releasing an early version of its 2004 budget later this month; post more information on its Web site; and it has appointed a group of ex-city finance experts to help it better explain its financial condition. Those measures, Kalikow said Tuesday, `will make the MTA the most public and transparent agency in government.`


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
July 18th, 2003, 11:52 PM
July 18, 2003

Subway Fare: Bottom Line on Jump to $2

By CLYDE HABERMAN

ONCE prices go up, they don't come down. That was the opinion heard around town this week after a state appeals court gave its blessing to the higher mass-transit fares and tolls in effect since May.

In doing that, the court reversed the decisions of lower-level judges who had ordered a fare rollback, having found the Metropolitan Transportation Authority guilty of bad faith, bad judgment and nearly everything else short of bad breath.

For a while, some New Yorkers dared to dream the impossible dream: a refund. When that bubble burst, many reacted with world-weary sighs. Aah, we knew it all along, they said. 'Twas too good to be true. Indeed, once prices go up, they don't come down.

But sometimes they do. The transit fare is an example, especially for New Yorkers who regularly use the subway and buses. Even with this fare increase, to a base of $2, they are paying less than the old $1.50 base and barely more than they were a decade ago.

The reason, of course, is the MetroCard, which has sent the subway token to a retirement home. The card makes possible an assortment of discounts long championed by advocacy groups like the Straphangers Campaign that are now taking the transportation authority to task and to court.

Under the old $1.50 base fare, the authority estimated that the average rider was actually paying only $1.04, thanks to the discounts and free transfers between buses and the subway. (Many people have already forgotten that such transfers were impossible until just a few years ago.)

Granted, the agency's math has been seriously called into question. Its leaders admit, somewhat belatedly, that they have been far from models of clarity or transparency about their finances.

But unless you have better numbers in your pocket, it is hard to challenge that $1.04 figure. It amounts to 4 cents more than the $1 fare that prevailed in the late 1980's, pre-MetroCard. Not exactly a sign of rampant inflation, is it?

O.K., the base fare is now up to $2. No one is happy about it. But with the discounts, the transportation authority projects that the cost of a ride will average about $1.30. Its estimates will have to do for a while because it is too soon for hard numbers.

That $1.30 is comfortably below the old base fare of $1.50. It is also a mere nickel above the $1.25 that was the fare from 1992 to 1995.

True, not all people do benefit equally from the MetroCard, as the Straphangers Campaign often points out. The discounts favor riders who can shell out a hefty sum — $70 for the 30-day card, for example — more than those able to spare only a few dollars at a time. Also, some people have no choice but to pay the full $2.

Still, the principle behind all the discounts is the same: those who rely on them the most will enjoy the greatest benefits. If you ride the subway or the bus a lot, your cost per ride will significantly shrink, ending up much closer to $1 than to $2. Is there a more fundamental goal for mass-transit advocates than to increase ridership and, in the process, keep cars off the streets?

PERHAPS the real issue is that price increases have not come often enough. That is what some officials are beginning to think, and they have more than mass transit in mind.

In the last month, both the State University and the City University of New York have substantially raised undergraduate tuition, by as much as 28 percent. Both went eight years with no increases at all.

Taxi fares in New York are likely to rise appreciably; they have not budged in seven years. The recent increase in the property tax, 18.5 percent, was the first in more than a decade. Back to the mass-transit fare, it had not gone up in seven and a half years. For three decades before that, fares rose every two or three years, on average, always by relatively small amounts.

Peter S. Kalikow, the transportation authority chairman, has said that a return to more modest, but more frequent, increases may be the wiser path. Matthew Goldstein, the City University chancellor, has made a similar point about tuition increases.

The concept makes sense to Mitchell Moss, an urban affairs specialist at New York University and an adviser to the mayor. If price increases are necessary and inevitable, Professor Moss said, better that they come in small doses, in good times as well as bad. That way, he said, "it's a lot easier for people to absorb."

The alternative is sticker shock, which is what New Yorkers are now experiencing — and not liking it one bit.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Agglomeration
July 30th, 2003, 09:08 PM
MTA Posts $186M Surplus

By Joshua Robin
Newsday Staff Writer

July 30, 2003, 6:45 PM EDT

MTA officials vowed Wednesday to keep fares and tolls the way they are through 2004, but continued the fight to close 62 token booths.

The announcements came as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released its preliminary 2004 budget and reams of other financial documents at their July board meeting.

The disclosures are part of a new transparency policy adopted after the state and city comptroller found the MTA kept two sets of books -- one public, the other internal.

Referring to the documents, board member Kenneth Caruso said: "I urge the public, including our most vociferous critics, to jump in with both feet."

According to the financial statements, the MTA will estimates it will end this year with a $186.3 million surplus -- a far cry than the $2.8 billion deficit it posted last year.

MTA Budget Director Gary Caplan said the authority will absorb the surplus in its 2004 budget, when it faces higher operating expenses and debt service.

But a faction of the MTA's largest union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said the surplus shows the MTA's duplicity. As recently as last year, when the MTA negotiated its contract with workers, the authority said it needed workers to give up a first year raise to offset its budgetary woes.

"People don't feel they got a fair shake," said Richard McKnight, a subway car inspector.

Katherine Lapp, MTA executive director, said the authority will not revisit the contract.

She also said the authority still plans its controversial proposal to shutter the 62 part-time booths, which would save about $6 million over three years. Gov. George Pataki hasn't indicated whether he will sign two bills that would prohibit the booth closures for up to three years.

ZippyTheChimp
August 27th, 2003, 12:05 PM
August 27, 2003

New Rules to Open Up M.T.A. Budget

By MICHAEL COOPER

State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi said yesterday that he would invoke a rarely used provision of state law to force the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to adopt new regulations intended to make its finances and budget practices more transparent.

The authority, which pushed through the biggest fare increase in its history this year, has come under repeated attacks for the secrecy that has surrounded its finances.

Mr. Hevesi is using his powers under the state finance law to get the M.T.A. to open up its budget process, down to requiring it to issue monthly reports on whether its expenses and revenues are in line with its projections. After the public and the authority comment on the regulations he proposed, state officials said, they will take effect.

The transportation authority was criticized for the murkiness of its finances both before and after it raised the price of a single subway ride to $2 from $1.50 this year.

Before the increase, when Gov. George E. Pataki, who controls the authority's board, was running for re-election last year, critics charged the agency with withholding information about its fiscal condition to obscure the likelihood that a fare increase was imminent. Weeks after Mr. Pataki's re-election, transit officials called for the increase.

After the fare went up questions about the authority's finances only increased.

Mr. Hevesi, along with City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., audited the authority and charged that it had used two sets of books to conceal a surplus and strengthen its case for an immediate fare increase. Those findings led a State Supreme Court judge to rule that the authority had misled the public and to order it to rescind the fare increase. But a state appeals court unanimously reversed that decision.

One of the regulations Mr. Hevesi proposed yesterday would require the authority to identify any plans it has to shift resources from one year to another. That would make it much harder for the authority to conceal surpluses by earmarking the money for use in the future, as Mr. Hevesi and Mr. Thompson charged that it did this year.

Officials at the authority, stung by the accusations that they had been secretive and duplicitous, announced a series of changes to its budget process earlier this year.

Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, said in May that the authority would announce its preliminary budget earlier each year, to allow more time for public scrutiny, and that it would begin issuing running four-year financial plans that it would update three times a year. The authority issued its financial plan and 2004 preliminary budget last month, four months earlier than usual.

Mr. Hevesi praised the steps that Ms. Lapp had taken so far, but said that new regulations were still needed so the budget reforms would "not depend on the good will of individual executives."

"The regulations I have proposed today will ensure that the public and their elected representatives have all the information they need to fully participate in future debates about transportation and fare policies," he said in a statement. "The debate should be focused on public transportation policies, not the transparency of the M.T.A.'s budget."

John McCarthy, a spokesman for the authority, said that it would review the proposed regulations. "Obviously we're pleased that the M.T.A. and the state comptroller are on the same page when it comes to improved financial reporting," he said.

By issuing the new proposed regulations yesterday, Mr. Hevesi was returning to an issue that won him considerable publicity and praise from city officials who were against the fare increase. In recent weeks Mr. Hevesi, a Democrat from Queens, has found himself at odds with many city officials over his decision to side with Governor Pataki in his attempts to block a bond deal that would save the city $500 million a year.

The comptroller filed the proposed regulations with the Department of State yesterday, officials said, and they will be published in the state registry early next month. Then the public, and the authority, will get 45 days to comment on the proposals. Then Mr. Hevesi can issue the final regulations, taking into account issues raised in the comment period.

Richard L. Brodsky, a Democratic Assemblyman from Westchester County, said that he applauded the comptroller's move to issue new regulations, but said that farther-reaching change, which would require new legislation, was needed.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
September 24th, 2003, 01:54 AM
September 24, 2003

Effort to Void Transit Fare Increase Dies in Court

By RANDY KENNEDY

With a terse epitaph — "motion for leave to appeal denied" — the long fight to wrest fare money from turnstiles and return some of it to riders' pockets was pronounced thoroughly dead yesterday.

New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals, decided yesterday that it would not hear the case seeking to roll back the recent fare and toll increases, after a unanimous ruling against the lawsuit in July by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court.

The lower court found that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was within its rights when it raised subway and bus fares by an average of 33 percent and commuter rail fares by an average of 25 percent in May.

The decision by the higher court ends a six-month effort by the Straphangers Campaign, a riders' advocacy group, and several elected officials to turn back the increase on the grounds that the authority had exaggerated the size of its deficit and misled the public, violating state law.

In May and June, two State Supreme Court justices ordered rollbacks of increases for rail and bus fares and bridge and tunnel tolls, finding that the authority had engaged in deceptive practices. One justice, Louis B. York, wrote that the practices "undermined the public's confidence in the M.T.A."

But the Appellate Division ruled that no laws had been broken, and the panel of justices added in its ruling that whether state law should be strengthened to require greater disclosure by the authority "is a political decision for the Legislature to determine."

Since 1995, fares have been raised twice, and each time, lawsuits have failed to roll back the increases, underscoring the broad power the authority has under the state's Public Authorities Law to determine how much money it needs from riders.

While the case ultimately had no effect on the bottom line for millions of riders — the base subway and bus fare will remain $2, up from $1.50 — the lawsuit did achieve some other goals for those who filed it, shining a particularly harsh light on the authority and its budgeting practices.

In the months after the suit was filed, the authority moved to make substantial changes in the way it reports its finances. It named a panel of prominent outside advisers and proposed legislation that would make even more changes.

The authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, has said that these changes were not prompted by the lawsuit or by the harsh financial reviews issued by the city and state comptrollers. But in early May he conceded to city business leaders that the authority "could have done a better job in the area of transparency."

Yesterday, Mr. Kalikow praised the Court of Appeals' decision not to hear the case and added, "The M.T.A. board's March 2003 determination to increase fares and tolls for the first time in eight years was a difficult decision made in the best interests of our regional transportation system."

New York's base fare is now among the highest in the country, and the percentage of the subway and bus system's operations paid not by government aid but by the fare — around 60 percent — is the highest in the country.

Transit officials repeatedly stress that looking at the base fare is deceptive and that, as a result of MetroCard discounts, the average fare paid by riders is much lower. As of this July, the average fare was $1.26, in part because more riders have been taking advantage of 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCards for $70.

Gene Russianoff, the staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, said yesterday that he was disappointed by the lawsuit's defeat, but he added that "for the people who want the agency to be more accountable, the verdict is not in yet."

When competing versions of the authority's reform legislation are again taken up by the State Legislature, probably next year, Mr. Russianoff said, he and others will fight for the adoption of much more stringent checks and balances than those proposed in the authority's bill.

"The reforms in the M.T.A. bill are — I guess it would be too harsh to say they're a joke — but they're a pale imitation of what's needed," he said.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

NewYorkYankee
October 4th, 2004, 09:47 PM
MTA fare hike, service cuts likely

Newsday

October 4, 2004, 7:26 PM EDT

Straphangers will almost certainly face a fare hike and service cuts next year, advocates fear, now that the MTA concedes ridership hasn't gone up enough.

Katherine Lapp, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's executive director, told reporters yesterday that the authority isn't likely to increase ridership by 5 percent by year's end.

"We don't expect that we will be able to achieve that goal," Lapp said of the target, which had been touted as one way of helping to close the MTA's estimated $436-million budget gap.

Yesterday, after testifying before a state Assembly committee in Staten Island, Lapp said the agency is still planning to raise 5 percent more in fare revenue -- by hiking MetroCard prices.

The agency has proposed raising the price of a monthly MetroCard next year from $70 to $76 and the price of a weekly card from $21 to $24.

"I think it's a tough battle to fight the proposed fare hike," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

Officials do not anticipate altering the $2 base fare on subways and buses, or base fares on commuter lines. MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow has told Newsday that those prices might jump in 2007, however.

Even if the MTA raises fares, the increased revenue will not go far enough to bridge the anticipated deficit. The MTA is also considering a wide range of service cuts, including closing 164 fare booths, ending G train service to Queens at Long Island City and staffing L and G trains with only one employee, among other things.

The MTA board is expected to vote on the cuts later this year, after holding public hearings. The one in the city is Nov. 8 at the U.S. Custom House on Bowling Green.

Compared to 2002, subway ridership was up 1.1 percent through July, the last month figures are available. That increase was tempered by a nearly 1 percent decline in bus ridership. NYC Transit officials were not yet able to entirely explain the discrepancy, they said.

TLOZ Link5
October 4th, 2004, 10:06 PM
So would G-train service in Queens end at LIC but continue in Brooklyn? As for crew cuts on the L and G, the MTA is working on automating the L-train anyway, but wouldn't fewer people in each train (not to mention fewer token booths) create a security issue?

tmg
October 5th, 2004, 12:35 AM
Computer based train control, like that being introduced on the L and 7 lines, does not automatically reduce the personnel per train. My understanding is that there will always be a train operator in front to watch for possible obstructions on the track, and override the computer as necessary. CBTC simply allows trains to operate safely while running faster and/or closer together.

Whether or not trains also have conductors (the people stationed in the middle who operate the doors) is another issue. When the possibility of eliminating conductors has been floated, both the riders and unions complain loudly. I don't think that will ever happen. But it seems possible that eventually the conductors might wander the train and serve a public safety/public information role, while the train operators control the doors.

ZippyTheChimp
October 17th, 2004, 09:01 AM
This post moved from a duplicate topic.

mtago away wrote:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has proposed a fare hike and service cuts in NYC.

Please sign the petition at MTA GO AWAY against any hikes or service cuts:

Here's the link: http://www.mtagoaway.org/

ZippyTheChimp
October 25th, 2004, 09:12 AM
October 25, 2004

In New York Transit Crisis, a Cash Bind Many Foresaw

By RICHARD PΙREZ-PEΡA

New York's 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 city's 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.

"What happened is fairly obvious; people did foresee this,'' said Laura MacDonald, an analyst at Standard & Poor's who studies the authority's finances. "They had a capital plan that would be large even if you were just maintaining a state of good repair, and in addition, they included major new expansions, and the M.T.A. funded it primarily on their own debt, versus getting contributions from the state or the city."

Current top officials at the authority agree. "What is happening is what people predicted back in '99, 2000, which is that the capital plan debts put tremendous pressure on the operating budget," said Katherine N. Lapp, the executive director.

In 1995, the authority took $169 million out of passengers' subway, bus and commuter rail fares - or about 7 percent - to make debt payments. This year, it will take $401 million, or about 12 percent. It projects that by 2008, the figure will reach $849 million, or about 24 percent of the income from fares.

In 1995, the transit authority had $7.5 billion in debts that it was expected to repay by itself, with fares and tolls. Today, that figure is more than $14 billion, and the agency projects that the total will approach $20 billion by 2008. In that period, it also predicts deficits rising to more than $1 billion a year.

All of those figures are overly optimistic, says the state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, a Democrat, who forecasts $2 billion-a-year deficits.

"They borrowed huge amounts of money without identifying or securing a revenue stream," he said. "You can do that for a short period of time, and then it causes a crisis.''

Ms. Lapp and the chairman of the authority, Peter Kalikow, have stated plainly in recent months that the agency must get a vast new infusion of money from Albany, City Hall and suburban counties, or face enormous service cuts and higher fares.

New York has gone through a profound shift in how transit is paid for - away from government and onto the riders - a change that was a stated, early policy of Gov. George E. Pataki and his administration, and also pursued by other politicians.

The shift began in the early 1990's and grew, step by step, culminating in 2000 with the capital program and voters' rejection of a transportation bond act.

The governor, three successive New York City mayors, and leaders of the Legislature have all contributed to placing more of the system's financial burden on riders, and all approved the capital program. But Mr. Pataki, a Republican, has the greatest sway over the authority, and the state plays the biggest role in supporting the system.

The governor's appointees hold 6 of the 14 votes on the authority's board, and he chooses the chairman, who sets policy directions and names the top executives. The mayor's appointees hold four votes, and people chosen by suburban county executives hold the remaining four.

"This is primarily about the governor's role," said Peter Derrick, a former chief of long-range planning at the authority. "The governor controls the M.T.A., and he's opposed to new taxes and subsidies for transit.''

But Adam Barsky, deputy secretary to Mr. Pataki and his main liaison to the authority, disputed the notion that the governor could dictate to the agency or be held responsible for its actions.

Mr. Barsky defended the 2000 capital plan, saying that while "people were aware that there were going to be debt service costs," the current troubles have more to do with unexpected rises in the cost of pensions, health care expenses and labor contracts. Both he and Mr. Pataki suggested that they did not accept the view that the situation is dire and that higher fares are inevitable. Mr. Barsky argued that the apparent worsening in recent years was largely just a product of the authority's being more open about its finances.

Officials have proposed an increase next year in what passengers pay by about 5 percent over all, leaving the base fare at $2, raising the cost of the seven-day pass to $24 from $21 and the cost of a 30-day pass to at least $76, and possibly $84, from the current $70.

In an appearance last week in Yonkers, Mr. Pataki said, "We're going to continue to push the M.T.A. to look at innovative ways to try to avoid having to raise any fares."

When it comes to the authority, politicians have wanted to keep the system in good condition, buy new trains and buses and add expensive new projects, all without a new source of income like higher fares or new taxes.

The authority's administrators have accepted those goals, and in a sense, they achieved them; the system is, by many measures, in better shape and more efficient than ever. But they also deferred costs through borrowing and put mounting financial burdens on riders.

In the early 1980's, when the transit system was in terrible shape, the state came to the rescue, along with the city and suburban counties. They provided billions of dollars in direct subsidies, and new taxes with revenue "dedicated" to the agency. The next decade brought new subsidies.

But since 1991, Mayors David N. Dinkins, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg have all cut the city's contributions.

In 1995, Governor Pataki took office, cut state subsidies to the authority and said the system, already the most financially self-sufficient in the country, had to become more so. He installed a new chairman at the authority, E. Virgil Conway, who raised fares - to $1.50 from $1.25 in the city - and said his orders were to make do with less from Albany. The authority adopted a new capital program, without any new sources of aid, that relied more heavily on borrowing than in the past.

In 1997, the authority introduced MetroCard discounts, like free transfers between buses and subways, and weekly and monthly passes. Ridership soared, and the average price paid per ride plummeted. Even after last year's fare increase, authority officials say, riders pay an average of $1.24 a ride, less than in the early 90's.

When the time came for a new capital plan in 2000, the authority, at the insistence of Mr. Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Mr. Giuliani, included billions of dollars for projects like a Long Island Rail Road tunnel to Grand Central Terminal and a Second Avenue subway line.

"It's outrageous that they would invest in new projects without first meeting the need to maintain the assets that are already there," said Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the authority.

Mr. Silver demanded and won an accord to place a transportation bond measure on the statewide ballot with $1.6 billion for the authority's capital program - debt that the state would be responsible for. The state also increased the authority's share of the dedicated taxes, though that new subsidy did not make up for a decade of cuts.

The authority's plan leaned much more heavily on borrowing and on riders' fares to pay back those debts. To make it work, the authority refinanced all of its existing debt, and "back-loaded" the bonds, with smaller payments in the first few years and bigger ones later, a strategy that gained some short-term breathing room but raised the cost over the long run.

Despite a chorus of criticism, a state panel appointed by the Assembly and Senate leaders, the mayor and the governor approved the capital plan.

Mr. Pataki voiced doubts about the bond issue and declined to campaign for it, and voters rejected it. Despite that loss, the authority did not pare back its plans.

"There's been a conscious retreat, especially by the state, from government's role of putting new resources into mass transit," said Al Appleton, senior fellow for infrastructure at the Regional Plan Association.

In the past four years, the system's pension and health care costs have, indeed, risen more sharply than expected. But the record low interest rates of recent years - not anticipated by anyone in 2000 - greatly lowered the cost of refinancing old debts and borrowing more.

And some dedicated taxes that feed the authority - taxes on new mortgages and petroleum product sales - have generated hundreds of millions of dollars more each year than expected.

Looking ahead, though, Mr. Kalikow, who became chairman in 2001, and Ms. Lapp, who joined the agency in 2002, paint a bleak picture. Their financial plan does not even cover operating expenses after next year, to say nothing of capital costs.

A new five-year capital program is supposed to start next year, but agency officials say they cannot pay for it. They say they need $17.2 billion just to keep the existing system in good order, $500 million for better security and $7.8 billion to continue the expansion projects - a total of $25.5 billion.

Their plan calls for $8.7 billion from federal aid, $4 billion in still more debt for the authority and $1.4 billion from steps like selling real estate and advertising. Ms. Lapp said that "all of those figures may be overly optimistic," as outside monitors have charged.

Even if those estimates are realistic, they leave an $11.4 billion hole to fill. Unless state and local governments produce the money, Mr. Kalikow and Ms. Lapp have warned, the expansion projects - the Long Island Rail Road connection, the Second Avenue subway, and a link from Kennedy International Airport to Lower Manhattan - may have to be sacrificed.

"It's all about whether you can make mass transit pay for itself," said Mr. Derrick, the authority's former planning chief. "You can make that decision, and the fare will be $4 and fewer people will ride. But we need to be honest that that's what we're talking about."


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
October 29th, 2004, 07:54 AM
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