View Full Version : M.T.A. Increases and Cutbacks

October 29th, 2003, 01:40 AM
October 29, 2003

Warning of Budget Gap, M.T.A. May Pare MetroCard Discounts


Warning that it could face a budget gap of more than a billion dollars by 2006, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said yesterday that it would consider reducing MetroCard discounts as early as 2005 to help balance its books.

But the authority's officials stressed that such a decision — in effect, a fare increase for millions of riders who regularly use the discounts — would be made only as a last resort if additional help did not come from the city, from Albany, from increases in ridership and from other sources of income.

The officials said that the agency's mounting financial problems were in large part due to the rising debt-service costs of new bonds it had issued to help rebuild the system, as direct government aid for such building had dwindled. The sale of the bonds in the last few years was among the largest in American history, and some have warned that they will saddle the authority with so much debt that regular fare increases will be likely.

"In fact now," said Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, "those costs are starting to hit us."

But she and other top officials said that they did not plan, until at least 2007, to increase the base fare of $2, which was set earlier this year — an increase of 33 percent over the previous fare of $1.50.

"It's not our intention, it's not what we envision," said Peter S. Kalikow, the authority's chairman, at a meeting of the M.T.A. board. "It's not what the strategy is, to change that aspect."

Instead, the plan proposes, at least for the next fiscal year, more cost-cutting throughout the transit system, including reducing the number of subway and bus cleaners, of graffiti removal teams and of elevator operators at deep stations in Washington Heights. And it counts on a 5 percent increase in revenue from transit fares, commuter rail fares and bridge and tunnel tolls in 2005 and 2007, all projected to come from increased ridership and traffic.

But if those increases do not occur, and no other new help comes from Albany or City Hall, officials said they could be forced to reduce discounts, for example, for daily, weekly and monthly MetroCards.

"That would be the last of the combinations I would look to," Ms. Lapp said.

In the months since the fare increase, Ms. Lapp said, riders have taken greater advantage of discounts and have reduced the average fare to $1.26, lower than the $1.28 that transit officials had expected. "For a shopper like me, that's an unbelievable discount," she said.

The authority explored its options yesterday as it issued a final financial proposal for its 2004 budget and a plan for its budget through 2007. Both documents were unusually early looks at the agency's financial picture and major changes in the way it presented its financial information. The change came after widespread criticism during the fare-increase process that the agency had mislead the public and concealed important budget data.

The long-range plan shows that — mostly because of debt-service costs and increasing pension costs — budget gaps grow from $840 million in 2004 to $1.4 billion in 2007.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

November 3rd, 2003, 10:32 AM
I'm even more disgusted now. There needs to be an open inquiry into why we end up getting these yawning budget deficits and all their accompanying miserable cutbacks in the first place.

November 3rd, 2003, 10:48 AM
Not saying it's jusified, but all these subway renovations, 2nd ave subways, etc. cost lots of money.

December 3rd, 2003, 09:09 AM
I'm even more disgusted now. There needs to be an open inquiry into why we end up getting these yawning budget deficits and all their accompanying miserable cutbacks in the first place.

It's no secret ... the state government, in an effort to cut its own budget deficits (and, in better years, cut state taxes), has reduced its subsidies to the MTA. The MTA has to keep the system running and in good repair, so it does the only thing it can do (besides raise the fare) ... sell bonds to raise money. But bonds require interest payments, and those are now piling up fast.

April 21st, 2004, 02:38 AM
MetroCard Discounts (http://gothamgazette.com/article/transportation/20040421/16/957)

July 1st, 2004, 10:13 AM

July 1, 2004

The MTA is considering offering bi-weekly MetroCards in an effort to entice more people to ride buses and subways, officials said yesterday.

"It's one thing we are going to consider," said MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which introduced unlimited MetroCards in 1998, offers riders monthly, weekly and one-day passes.

Discount passes have skyrocketed in popularity after the agency raised the fare 50 cents to $2 last year. The average fare has plummeted to $1.26 because riders are taking advantage of discount cards.

The MTA has been doing market research to see if riders would be interested in using the new card, asking them if they would be willing to pay $36, $38 or $41 for a two-week pass.

A 14-day pass was first proposed two years ago by the Straphangers Campaign as a way to give more riders the chance to take advantage of discount passes.

Clemente Lisi

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

July 1st, 2004, 10:24 AM
What these averages are not taking into account is that people would ride the trains less if they did not HAVE to pay for an unlimited pass.

They are taking every time the people as a way of making an average.

I know I only have the cash card going. If I can, I walk to where I go. If I had an unlimited card, I would be using it more than I am now....


this is another classic example of spend-spend-spend. If you have a surplus, people start sticking their hands out asking for it (MTA Union, et all) and the people that GAVE the money (State and federal) give less because "you did not need all that money last year".

So where is the incentive to spend less? ALL GOVERNMENT JOBS are like this. You come in underbudget, you are punished for saving the money by having to do it for the same or cheaper next time dispite any unforseen expenses that may not have shown up last time.

I think we need to start making job incentives like they did with the 4-17 interchange. They were awarded for finishing over 6 months early, and they did a great job.

THEY EARNED MORE MONEY by coming in 6 months early than if they had gone 6 months over and billed ofr additional expenses.

THAT is how things are done right.

July 26th, 2004, 10:32 AM
MTA seeks a fair way to rejigger MetroCard


Not all Metrocard users are on track for a fare hike, transit sources said.
Transit officials are expected to announce this week that they may hike the price of unlimited-ride monthly and weekly MetroCards to close next year's huge projected budget gap.

But sources said there is strong reluctance to boost the $10 pay-per-ride bonus MetroCard that lets bus and subway riders pay for five trips and get one free.

The popular $10 free ride card was introduced to ease the financial hit of last year's fare hike on low-income riders, who are less able to shell out bigger bucks for the higher-priced monthly and weekly cards.

The MetroCard fare plan is expected to be among a range of options the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will announce Thursday to close a projected $549 million budget hole in 2005.

About 31% of all trips are now paid for with the bonus pay-per-ride cards. Nearly half of all trips are paid for with $70 monthly or $21 weekly unlimited-ride MetroCards, Transit Authority figures show.

The MTA raised the base fare to $2 last year from $1.50. Officials have said repeatedly they will not increase the base fare in 2005.

"I'm glad to see they are reluctant to touch the pay-per-ride

[bonus] MetroCard," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney with the Straphangers Campaign. "Increasing it would be regressive."

The MTA is hoping to help plug this hole with $227 million in new revenue from increased ridership, higher fares and tolls - or a combination of the two.

The MTA's budget problems are mainly the result of rising payments on old debt, including the borrowing costs for station rehabilitations. Increased pension and health benefit costs also are factors, officials said.

The MTA used to present its budget proposals late in the year. But the spending plan now comes out in July - a reform that accompanied the 2003 fare hike. The final budget is not expected until December.

The MTA was accused of not being honest about the dire state of its finances. Last year's hike was challenged in court and upheld.

Referring to Thursday's budget presentation, one source said: "There are going to be options. We will put a menu before the public and the board to decide how they want to handle it."

On that menu will be potential service cuts and efficiency savings.

"Whatever is on the menu, it's going to give heartburn to millions of riders," Russianoff said.

Originally published on July 26, 2004

All contents © 2004 Daily News, L.P.

July 29th, 2004, 12:48 AM
July 29, 2004

Fare Increases on MetroCards Appear Likely


Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials will propose increases to the prices of unlimited-ride MetroCards today, as well as reductions in overnight bus service throughout the city, transit officials said yesterday.

The measures, intended to close a significant budget gap expected next year, are part of an early plan for next year's budget that the authority is to release. The transportation authority's executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, would not release the exact amounts of the fare increases before a meeting of the authority's board today. But one top transportation authority official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that officials would propose to raise the price of monthly passes to at least $75, a $5 increase; they will also suggest that the price of weekly cards be increased to $23 or $24, from $21, and daily passes to go up to $8 or $9, from $7.

Another high-level transit official, however, said that he believed the price of the daily passes would remain unchanged. Members of the authority's board received a thick packet yesterday detailing the proposed service cuts for next year, as well as in 2006, when the budget gap is expected to widen substantially.

"The picture in '05 is bad," said Andrew Albert, a nonvoting member of the board who is chairman of the New York City Transit Riders Council, declining to talk about specifics. "But '06 is horrendous."

For months, Ms. Lapp had been warning of a projected deficit of $766 million in 2005 and more than $1 billion in 2006. She initially outlined plans to close next year's gap with $539 million in cuts and $227 million in additional revenue from increased ridership, higher fares or tolls.

Now, however, at least for 2005, the expected budget gap has narrowed considerably, because of unexpectedly high returns on taxi subsidies the authority gets from New York real estate and fuel sales. Peter S. Kalikow, chairman of the transportation authority's board, said yesterday that the deficit that needs to be closed now is probably going to be in the $400 million range.

Agency chiefs were asked last month to come back to Ms. Lapp with their suggested cuts. Among other items, transit officials are looking at late-night buses that often carry only a few passengers, Mr. Kalikow said. The lines would not be eliminated completely, he said, but they would run less often.

He explained that on average there are many more empty seats on New York City buses than there are elsewhere in the country, because New York runs buses more frequently.

Mr. Kalikow also said that users of two of the region's commuter train lines, Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road, would most likely see similar service cuts, although he pointed out that Metro-North's schedule was harder to trim because it does not run overnight.

On the city's subways and buses, officials have been talking about raising the price of discounted MetroCards for months. The cost of 30-day unlimited cards has seemed especially vulnerable because their price rose the least of the three types of unlimited ride cards after the fare increase in May 2003, going up by just 11 percent to $70, from $63, when the seven-day and one-day cards went up by 35 percent and 75 percent, respectively. The percentage of people who use the 30-day passes has risen steadily as a result.

In some ways, the transit authority has been victimized by its own success with the discounted MetroCards, which were introduced in 1996, said Preston Niblack, deputy director of the Independent Budget Office, a nonprofit fiscal monitor that has followed the authority's budget problems.

Even though the subway and bus base fare went up to $2 in May 2003, the average fare earned by the transit authority on each ride taken in its system has been hovering around $1.26, short of the authority's target of $1.30, because of the success of the unlimited ride cards, officials said.

The roots of next year's shortfall, as well as the even bigger gap expected in 2006 and beyond, date back to the controversial decision made in 1999 by transportation authority officials to plunge ahead with an ambitious five-year capital program that paid for upgrades to the transit system, as well as the first major expansion of the system in 60 years, even though there was no money to pay for it.

Instead, the authority borrowed unprecedented amounts, a choice, for better or for worse, that is now coming back to haunt the agency, several observers said.

"It was pretty inevitable," said H. Carl McCall, who, as the state's comptroller, was among the first to issue warnings about the financing of the capital program in the late 1990's. "There was such a great dependence on debt, and that debt really had to be paid from the fare box."

Mr. McCall, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002, criticized Gov. George E. Pataki for reducing the state's contribution to the authority's rebuilding program to nothing, when it had once been as high as 30 percent in the 1980's.

The authority also restructured its debt, a controversial refinancing plan that finished in 2002, which provided a temporary infusion of cash to help close another budget gap it faced at the time. But that only increased the size of the M.T.A.'s debt.

It is payments on that debt that is the primary driver of the authority's current problems, as well as rising pension and health care costs.

But Mr. Niblack, as well as several others interviewed, said they are hard-pressed to criticize authority officials for pressing ahead with its capital program, because of the importance of maintaining the region's transit system.

"I think that's something everybody has seen the benefits of," Mr. Niblack said. "Nobody wants to lose that. The problem is, where do you get the money?"

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 30th, 2004, 08:38 AM
July 30, 2004

Proposal Would Raise Fares and Tolls in New York


Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials yesterday proposed a sweeping list of fare and toll increases and cutbacks that would affect nearly everyone who drives or takes mass transit in the region.

Most prominent among the proposed increases were changes in the price of unlimited ride MetroCards. Ending months of speculation, the authority's executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, outlined plans for a $6 increase to the $70 monthly MetroCards for subways and buses and a $3 jump in the $21 weekly passes.

Drivers who use the transportation authority's major bridges and tunnels, like the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, the Triborough, Throgs Neck and Bronx-Whitestone Bridges, and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, would see tolls jump 50 cents from the current price of $4. Tolls on the authority's smaller bridges, which are now $2, would rise 25 cents. Also, all E-ZPass users would be assessed a $1 a month maintenance fee.

Riders of Metro-North Railroad in New York and the Long Island Rail Road would see ticket prices rise an average of five percent. The cost of riding express buses, mainly between Staten Island and Manhattan, would rise to $6 from $4.

The measures are needed to close an anticipated $436 million deficit in 2005, Ms. Lapp said during a meeting of the authority's board. But the worst might be yet to come, she said, hinting at what could be in store in 2006, when the authority's deficit is projected to grow to over $1 billion, unless the state or the city step in to help. Riders could see the reduction of subway service during evenings and weekends, the elimination of overnight bus service on many routes and the abandonment of entire branch lines of the Long Island Rail Road.

For 2005, the authority plans to significantly reduce off-peak bus service on three-quarters of its routes throughout the city and eliminate 164 token booths in the subways. The G line, which runs during evenings and weekends between Smith Street in Brooklyn to Forest Hills, Queens, would end at Court Square in Long Island City, Queens. Car and station cleaning will be reduced on the Long Island Rail Road and service will be cut back on less popular routes. Metro-North riders will also see reductions in cleaning and a postponing of increased service on the Mid-Harlem line after a third track is added to that line.

"Quantity will be sacrificed before quality will be sacrificed," Ms. Lapp said. "That is to say, we will not erode the quality of service that we're providing our riders, that they deserve and they've counted upon. If we have to make reductions, they will be in the area of quantity, not quality."

The authority will hold public hearings on the proposed budget probably in the fall, officials said. The authority's board will then vote on the budget in December, and the changes would occur some time in 2005. It is possible that the mix of proposed increases and cutbacks could change, though officials say belt-tightening will be needed.

While in previous years, authority officials have predicted major deficits that never materialized, several fiscal observers said yesterday that this time, the situation appears to be different, as some of the biggest costs facing the authority are built inextricably into the authority's $8.4 billion budget and are less prone to inaccurate projections.

The authority's problems are largely being brought on by payments coming due on mountains of debt the authority issued to pay for its most recent five-year capital program, which has paid for upgrading and expanding the system. The authority had to borrow more than it ever did before in part because the state, which once contributed heavily to the capital program, offered nothing the last time around.

"You can see that there are some fundamental issues, particularly in terms of growing debt service," said David Neustadt, a spokesman for state comptroller Alan G. Hevesi. "It's clear they can't really count on something to magically come along and solve the problem."

Mr. Hevesi tried to stop the authority's last subway and bus fare increase, which took place in May 2003, accusing the authority of essentially maintaining two sets of books to justify it. It was in part because of the fallout from those accusations that the authority began releasing its budgets in July, several months earlier than before, to allow for more public scrutiny.

The authority also unveiled yesterday a new $27.8 billion five-year capital program, the most expensive it has proposed since its rebuilding programs began in the 1980's. The program, which would stretch from 2005 to 2009, includes $17.4 billion for simply upgrading the authority's existing network to a state of good repair. Transit advocates are united in their support for this investment, which pays for things like new subway cars and station renovations.

"The highest priority must be the capital maintenance of the existing system," said Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the authority's board. It was under Mr. Ravitch, when the aging system was verging on collapse, that the authority first began a capital rebuilding program. "Otherwise, the subway system and commuter rail system are going to start down the slippery slope again."

The new proposed capital program also includes $500 million for security upgrades and money for several major expansion projects that the authority has decided to push ahead with. They include a link that would carry Long Island Rail Road riders to Grand Central Terminal, the first phase of the long-awaited Second Avenue subway and a rail link between Lower Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport and beyond. The program also includes the extension of the No. 7 line to the far West Side, a plan pushed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, but the city has promised to pay its $2 billion cost.

Explaining the need for the new projects, Ms. Lapp said yesterday that the transit system had remained largely stagnant for decades, even as the city had substantially changed. Many politicians have said that the projects are needed to spur economic growth in the region.

The proposed capital program must now go to Albany for consideration by state lawmakers. A crucial question looms, however, over how the authority will pay for the program. The authority clearly cannot afford to borrow much more, officials said.

"The great debate will be how this need is met," Ms. Lapp said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

August 1st, 2004, 11:55 AM
MTA seeking E-Z cash


Bozos who cause bottlenecks at bridge and tunnel entrances may no longer get a free ride from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The MTA is considering imposing a $10 penalty on drivers who fail to properly mount E-ZPasses to their windshields or license plate frames, making it impossible for sensors to read them and raise toll gates at bridges and tunnels.

Scores of times, bridge and tunnel agents have seen drivers fumbling for their passes while traffic backs up, said Frank Pascual of MTA Bridges and Tunnels.

But it also "will improve the traffic flow and reduce the number of people being stuck in toll lanes, causing delays to both themselves and others," he said.

Delays caused by E-ZPass fumblers occurred an estimated 73,000 times last year, according to the MTA. By issuing the fines, the MTA would reap approximately $730,000 a year, according to the agency.

The MTA is considering other E-ZPass related fees and fines that, if approved by its board, would go into effect next year. They include:

A $30 charge, up from $25, for attempting to use a deactivated E-ZPass to pay a toll.

A $2 fee for those who get stuck at a toll gate with no dough.

A $25 penalty to those who bounce a check to the MTA, up from $15.

Originally published on August 1, 2004

All contents © 2004 Daily News, L.P.

August 2nd, 2004, 09:24 AM
When in need of money, invent a new moving violation.

August 4th, 2004, 12:18 AM

MTA's welcome new math

Published on August 02, 2004

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has come a long way in giving the public accurate information about its finances. The politicians who made hay by attacking the MTA, with little regard for the substance of their attacks, are acting responsibly, too. Can it last? Can it lead to something better? The next few weeks will tell.

The MTA faces a $400 million budget gap this year and a $1 billion deficit next year, primarily because it's time to start making payments on the massive debt that was floated to pay for an ambitious capital spending program. This year's deficit is actually worse than it appears, because the MTA is raking in mortgage tax collections that are disappearing, now that the refinancing boom is petering out.

None of this is news because the MTA has been updating its budget projections for months. Executive Director Katherine Lapp promised to do so when the agency raised the basic subway fare to $2, and she has kept her word. The numbers have not been disputed by critics, including state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who led a broadside attack on the agency a year ago, which involved mostly inaccurate charges. The controversy, however, did lead to important changes at the agency.

The question that the MTA and all New Yorkers face is what to do about the deficit. The MTA released a new $27.8 billion five-year capital agenda as well, and it is simply unclear whether it is affordable.

The agency has proposed a litany of fare changes, most of which involve reducing the discounts available on Metrocards, especially ones that offer unlimited rides. There is a lot of room to do that, since the average subway and bus fare is actually only $1.26. It's a reasonable approach.

Also proposed are cutbacks in service, especially overnight buses and trains.

Vestiges of old-style budget gamesmanship remain, regrettably. The MTA leaked a story that it would consider selling naming rights to subway stations. No one wants to do this and it wouldn't raise any substantial money. Many of the service-cut threats might be the kind of ploys that disappear as final decisions are made.

In the end, the MTA's actions are more like those of a normal business. The best step would be for the MTA to raise or lower its fares every year based on costs and its customers' willingness to pay. No one is ready for that yet.

Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc

October 29th, 2004, 06:49 AM
October 29, 2004

M.T.A. Budget Is Faulted as It Plans Higher Fares


As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority prepares to raise fares and cut service for riders of the region's mass transit system, a stinging new report says the authority has failed to trim fat from its own central office and is doing little to address its years of projected multibillion-dollar deficits.

The report by State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi said the authority, with an $8.4 billion budget, was doing little to reduce an overstaffed headquarters that includes, for example, a "budget and accounting" staff of 359 people. By comparison, the city, with a $47 billion budget, has 257 employees in its Office of Management and Budget.

The comptroller's report also found that the authority had 698 people working in human resources, 444 in "public relations and marketing" and 443 in its legal department, and spent $10 million in recent years on outside law firms.

Seeking ways to cut spending this year in its bridges and tunnels division, which has a $356 million budget, the authority found just $140,000 in savings, including the elimination of one secretary's position, Mr. Hevesi reported. It identified no savings or management improvements in the Long Island bus system.

The report, which was released yesterday, comes as the authority struggles to deal with a debt load that threatens to consume its budget, forcing it to make painful decisions about raising fares, cutting service, or delaying repairs to a system that carries millions of riders daily. Driving its financial problems are decisions the authority made several years ago to borrow much of the money it needed to pay for its five-year capital rebuilding program after state aid failed to materialize.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Hevesi acknowledged that belt-tightening alone would not rescue the authority from deficits projected at $1.4 billion next year and rising to $2.1 billion in 2008. Getting its own administrative house in order would be a "partly symbolic" gesture, he said, that could help raise the additional revenue the authority needs from state and local governments.

"It says you're taking this seriously, so then you're credible when you go to the state and counties to ask for funding," he said. "I don't think it's credible just to say, 'We're going to raise fares,' and, 'Give us more money.' "

Authority officials say they need a vast infusion of funds, but since city and state budgets are already under enormous pressure, such aid may not be forthcoming. The officials have also warned that the authority may have to forgo long-planned expansion projects, like a Long Island Rail Road connection to Grand Central Terminal, a rail link to Kennedy International Airport, and construction of the Second Avenue subway.

Yesterday, the authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, dismissed Mr. Hevesi's report, saying it contained nothing new. He did not directly address the findings about authority's staffing levels, but he said the Legislature had twice rejected bills that would have allowed the authority to reorganize its operations.

He also took a swipe at Mr. Hevesi, who accused the authority last year of concealing money to justify a fare increase by maintaining two sets of books. Mr. Kalikow's dig at Mr. Hevesi was part of a broader complaint about the cost of the authority's labor contracts and utilities expenses.

"If I could get Local 100 to lower their wages, and I could get Con Ed to lower their energy costs, and if I could get the controllers to focus on managing the pensions to keep them from skyrocketing, instead of looking for that set of books that they never seem to find, I would lower the fares," Mr. Kalikow said. "I'd do it in a minute."

The authority board is expected to vote in December on fare increases and service reductions that would take effect next year, including increasing the cost of a monthly unlimited MetroCard to as much as $84 from the current $70. Last year, the price of the monthly card was increased to $70 from $63. At a news conference after an authority meeting yesterday, Mr. Kalikow defended the latest proposed increase.

"The average MetroCard 30-day user uses it 67 times," he said. "That's $1.08. I think it's going to go to $1.22. Still a pretty good deal, don't you think?"

Mr. Hevesi's report concluded that the fare increases were the result of the authority's failure to make significant spending cuts that would not affect service for riders. In fact, the report said, some of the cuts that the authority is considering - closing the north passageway from Grand Central Terminal on weekends, eliminating half the air-conditioning repair crews for Long Island Rail Road trains, and closing subway station token booths - would worsen the authority's long-term finances by discouraging ridership.

Without substantial additional money in 2006, the authority has said, further fare increases and service cuts might be needed, in addition to whatever actions are taken in December. But Mr. Hevesi said that of the $135 million in spending cuts the authority is considering for that year's budget, only $1.4 million, or 1 percent, are administrative costs. The bulk of it, 87 percent, is from service reductions.

It is unclear whether all of the staffing levels identified by Mr. Hevesi are excessive, and drawing comparisons to other government agencies can get complicated.

In addition to its Office of Management and Budget, the city, for instance, also has a Finance Department, responsible for collecting taxes and conducting property assessments, which has more than 2,000 employees. Depending on how the various job functions compare, that could put the authority's budget and accounting staff levels in a different light. Also, the authority said, its public relations and marketing staff included 262 people who handle customer service telephone lines.


Headaches For Mayor, Bouquets For M.T.A.


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has taken shots at various opponents this week, at times with glee. When City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz wrote him a letter on Tuesday imploring him not to back down in contract negotiations with the teachers' union, Mr. Bloomberg snapped that she played no role in those talks, and mocked other aspects of how Ms. Moskowitz does her job.

The same day, Mr. Bloomberg ripped into the Council speaker, Gifford Miller, over a council campaign finance bill, and took a shot at Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of Shubert Theaters, during a fancy luncheon, over his opposition to the administration's plan to build a stadium on the far West Side of Manhattan.

But Mr. Bloomberg has had nothing but praise but two people who may indirectly cause his biggest political headache in a year - the two people in charge of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, who suggested this week that fare increases and service cuts are imminent.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bloomberg said his hat was off to Peter Kalikow, the chairman of the authority, and its executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, for doing "a hell of a job."

The mayor has almost zero control over the transit system's fares, labor negotiations or services. But when any of those things go wrong, he takes plenty of the blame.

Perhaps mindful of that, past mayors have railed against the system and at times proposed substantial changes. Mayor Edward I. Koch pressed Albany to adopt new real estate taxes to prevent a fare increase, which was influential in Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's decision to appoint a transit financing panel.

In the early 1990's Mayor David N. Dinkins testified at a transit system hearing with his own plan to avert a fare increase, which, while not adopted, helped to prevent a fare increase. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani often criticized the authority, and started the tradition of making the city budget director serve on the board.

But Mr. Bloomberg is hewing to another tactic as the transit system faces some of its worst fiscal problems in two decades: Employing kindness and love with those he disagrees with.

One factor that may be at play is that the mayor could lose his most treasured project if he angers the authority. The transit system holds the key to building a proposed football stadium on the West Side, and without it, the project cannot proceed.

For the stadium to go forward, the authority must agree to sell development rights over the West Side rail yards where the stadium is to go, and is seeking a far higher price than the city wants to pay. Further, the authority is needed to extend the No. 7 subway line, which would make it easier to get to the stadium.

And so it was that the so-called MetroCard mayor - he takes the subway almost daily - stood side by side with Mr. Kalikow during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the city subways on Tuesday. Mr. Bloomberg proclaimed him "one of the most dedicated hard-working people who works very hard to make this city better."

Mr. Kalikow smiled bravely as reporters fired one question after another at Mr. Bloomberg about potential fare increases, which the mayor proclaimed at once hypothetical and yet undesirable.

The blame for the authority's woes - and who ought to fix them - has become a subject of fierce debate around the state.

From the Pataki administration's perspective, the problems stem from both the State Legislature's failure to pass a variety of bills that would restructure some of the authority's operations, and a need for the city to increase subsidies to the authority, which have fallen steadily over the last decade.

"The governor has advanced numerous proposals that have failed to pass the Legislature that would help the M.T.A. manage their costs and help avoid a fare increase," said Adam Barsky, deputy secretary to Gov. George E. Pataki and his main liaison to the authority.

Fiscal monitors complain about debt service stemming from a capital plan constructed by Marc V. Shaw, then executive director and now deputy mayor to Mr. Bloomberg. Mr. Shaw said that "no one complained about the spending priorities contained in the last M.T.A. capital plan," perhaps suggesting that politicians across the state benefited from improved services.

Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg's constant claims that he is unclear as to how the authority is managing its finances sounds a bit odd, since all he has to do is literally look up and ask Mr. Shaw, who sits across from the mayor in City Hall and is perhaps the world's leading expert on the transit system's convoluted fiscal ways. Mr. Shaw, who is also perhaps the least loquacious man in city government, would not comment on that observation.

From the city's point of view, the authority has not articulated how it will pay for its spending priorities, and is hoping City Hall will help bail it out at a time when municipal coffers are also nearly dry. Typically, capital plans are financed through bond issues or dedicated surcharges, which Governor Pataki would have to get on board with, as well. But the governor has yet to recommend any specific plans.

And if Mr. Bloomberg's gloves-off approach to the authority does not work, constituents are not likely to let him off the hook if the fares go up or services slip.

"I predict that the M.T.A.'s financial woes will loom larger and larger at the mayor's doorstep as we move into a mayoral election year," said Gene Russianoff, the lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group. He warned of a year that could include "potential massive service cuts and fare hikes, something not seen since the end of Ed Koch's first term."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 2nd, 2004, 04:08 PM
Bouncing from the other metro topic.

The whole budget is a crock anyway. NYC is used as the main resource for most of the state. WIthout NYC many of the roads, communications and other infrastructure would not be present or available.

But in a budget crisis where the state is spending TOO MUCH of someone elses money, they reduce the ammount given BACK to them to fund their own expenses.

This is not right.

I am not saying all the causes for this overburden are acceptable either, seeing some of the deals that were struck when there WAS money available.

PS, who is getting these "pensions" and how can they be more expensive than expected?

November 5th, 2004, 07:26 AM
November 5, 2004

Transit Agency Softens Its Plan to Increase Subway Fares


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority scaled back its dismal forecast for subway and bus riders yesterday, saying that while fare increases and service cuts were still necessary, they need not be as drastic as the agency had feared. The price of a 30-day MetroCard will rise to no more than $76 starting next year, the authority said in a proposal made yesterday.

Last month, the agency had said it might need to raise the monthly unlimited-ride MetroCard price to $84 from $70 to help cover a gaping budget hole. But more than $400 million in increased tax revenues and savings has taken some pressure off the agency, said Tom Kelly, a spokesman.

Under the new proposal, the express bus fare, now $4, would be raised to $5, not to $6, and fares on the commuter railroads would rise by about 5 percent rather than 8 percent. Furthermore, the authority said that clerks at more than 150 token booths could be redeployed elsewhere in stations rather than laid off, although booths would still be closed. Layoffs of more than 900 other employees would also be canceled. And a plan to shorten the G subway line by 13 stops in Queens could be shelved for the time being. Plans to make riders wait longer for buses during off-peak hours would also be phased in more slowly under the proposal.

A plan to raise the price of a 7-day MetroCard to $24, from $21, still stands, officials said.

Transit officials stressed that the new proposal had little bearing on the agency's 2006 budget, for which a $1 billion deficit is projected, or on an $11 billion hole in the agency's new five-year plan for capital improvements.

"This is not the end of the financial problems that we have," Mr. Kelly said. "This is a temporary relief for the present time."

Still, with public hearings on fare increases and service cuts scheduled to begin next Monday, the authority is hoping riders will greet the lessening of bad news as, well, good news.

"The M.T.A. is going in the right direction but needs to do more," said Gene Russianoff, a staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group.

The proposed changes, contained in a memo that the authority's executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, wrote and delivered yesterday to the agency's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, will probably be voted on at the agency's meeting next month.

According to the memo, the agency's slightly rosier future was made possible largely by higher-than-expected revenue from general real estate taxes, including the mortgage recording tax, that are collected by the state and earmarked for the M.T.A. Real estate prices have held steadier than many analysts predicted, generating $160 million in extra tax revenue for the authority this year and an expected $117 million next year, officials said.

The agency expects to save an additional $180 million this year and next by delaying for at least a year a series of bond issues (and their attendant costs) and a move of the agency's headquarters, along with other measures.

The authority acknowledged the extent of its financial problems in July, when it announced that it expected a $436 million deficit for 2005 and a shortfall of about $1.3 billion for 2006. The deficits are due largely to the cost of keeping up with payments on a $17 billion maintenance and expansion program that the authority embarked upon in 2000, ignoring warnings from many fiscal watchdogs.

In July, the authority said it would need to increase bridge tolls and mass-transit fares to offset the ballooning debt service.

Forecasts for real estate tax revenue have brightened considerably since July, as interest-rate increases expected in September, which would have hurt the market, never came. But Mr. Kelly said the authority held off revising its proposed increases until yesterday in order to be sure it was putting the most current numbers possible before the public, which has chafed at the prospect of spending more money to get less service.

"The chairman and the committee members have been very concerned about the amount of the increase that would be needed and the severity of all the cuts," Mr. Kelly said. "They have requested the executive director to notify them if there are any adjustments in the figures."

Among the employees who would now not be laid off are train cleaners and bus drivers. The agency had originally proposed increasing the wait for buses during times other than rush hour by up to five minutes on all routes. Yesterday Mr. Kelly said that the agency would begin by running buses less frequently on just a few routes and gradually expand the cuts to other routes.

The more severe cuts still being contemplated for 2006 include reducing evening and weekend subway service, eliminating several branches of the Long Island Rail Road and eliminating all-night bus service on some routes.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 10th, 2004, 06:07 AM
November 10, 2004

Bloomberg Chides the M.T.A. for Its Failure to Control Costs


In the hearing yesterday, board members listened to criticism from Mayor Bloomberg, standing, before an audience of about 150. Two final hearings are scheduled today.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg sharply stepped up his criticism of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday at a hearing on its plans to increase fares and cut service, accusing the agency of presiding over "bloated payrolls" and "out-of-control spending."

Mr. Bloomberg said that rather than ask riders or the state or city for more money, the authority should "look in the mirror" and realize that "business as usual just doesn't cut it anymore."

In recent weeks, the mayor had urged the authority, which runs the city's subway and bus system and suburban rail lines, to "do more with less" and consider raising fares only as a last resort. But his comments yesterday, at a hearing in a theater in the Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, were considerably less diplomatic.

After citing a recent report from the state comptroller that noted, for example, that the authority retained a legal staff of more than 440 people and that its own internal audits had turned up considerable waste, the mayor raised his voice a notch.

"Bloated payrolls, out-of-control spending, needless redundancies," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is no way to run a railroad - and no way to earn the trust of the people who ride the nation's largest bus and subway system, either."

The audience of about 150 people greeted Mr. Bloomberg's comments with applause, though the claps turned to boos when he added that most of the cuts would have to be made not at the top of the authority but "out on the streets and under the ground," among the vast majority of the authority's workers.

Only 18 months after increasing the basic subway and bus fare to $2 from $1.50, the authority announced over the summer that it faced deficits in coming years of more than $11 billion and that more fare increases and service cuts were necessary, although they would not nearly be enough to close the gap.

In its most recent proposal, released last week, the authority seeks to increase the price of a seven-day MetroCard to $24 from $21, a 30-day card to $76 from $70, the express bus fare to $5 from $4, and fares on its commuter rail lines by 5 percent. The authority also wants to close 164 token booths and deploy their clerks elsewhere in stations and to run fewer buses during off-peak hours.

The authority's board members, who sat on the stage of the theater yesterday listening to the mayor and the dozens of speakers who followed him, are scheduled to vote on the changes next month.

Most independent analysts who have studied the transit system have concluded that its situation has been caused not by excessive staffing but by the years of reductions in government subsidies, particularly by the state, and by the size of the debt the authority incurred when it borrowed billions of dollars to fill the financing gap.

The mayor did not address these issues, instead telling the authority to follow the lead of his administration, which he said had cut spending rigorously.

The authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, said his agency was already doing more with less. "We've cut $200 million this year alone and are looking at probably $120 million next year," he said. "But we don't think that we can get to 'no fare hike' just on doing more with less."

The head of a rider advocacy group, Beverly Dolinsky, said she was disappointed by the mayor's comments.

"He knows that this is a debt that can't be filled with service cuts and fare increases and personnel cuts," said Ms. Dolinsky, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the authority.

Many of the speakers at yesterday's meeting called on Gov. George E. Pataki, who sets the state's transit financing policy and appoints more of the authority's board members than any other official, to help the authority find more money even if that means creating new taxes.

Ms. Dolinsky said it would have been tricky for Mr. Bloomberg to take on the governor, given the city's own budget gap and its history, extending back to the administration of Mayor David N. Dinkins, of allocating less and less to the transportation authority.

"Not only is he looking for money from Albany," Ms. Dolinsky said, "but people will say, 'How can you attack the governor when you haven't given money yourself?' ''

The authority's public hearings on the fare increases and service cuts will conclude with two sessions at 4 p.m. today, one at Franklin K. Lane School on Jamaica Avenue in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, and the other at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 12th, 2004, 05:33 AM
November 12, 2004

M.T.A. Plans Few Cuts in Its Headquarters Staff


While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is proposing major staff cuts in the operation of its subways, buses and trains over the next four years, it would spare its headquarters staff from the same reductions, according to authority budget documents.

Barring a significant infusion of money by 2008, the authority plans to reduce the staff at New York City Transit, which runs the city's subways and buses, by 8 percent, about 4,000 jobs. Staff cuts at the Metro-North, Long Island and Staten Island railroads would range from 4 percent to 12 percent, for a total of 900 jobs.

By contrast, the authority proposes to cut just 18 positions - about 1 percent - from its central office, which has a staff of 1,371 and a budget of $300 million.

The disparity between the belt-tightening at headquarters and at the operating level is at the heart of complaints by the state comptroller, budget watchdog groups and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who say the authority is not doing enough to cut administrative expenses that do not affect the riding public.

Although the amount of money to be saved would fall far short of what is needed to close the billion-dollar deficits the authority foresees in coming years, turning the budget knife on itself would give the authority's management more credibility when demanding that riders pay more for less, these critics say.

"Eliminating wasteful management spending at M.T.A. headquarters will send the same message that everyone, from the top on down, takes budgetary discipline seriously," Mr. Bloomberg testified at an authority hearing on Tuesday.

Tom Kelly, an authority spokesman, said that 727 of the employees at headquarters are police officers, whose jobs are considered untouchable because of the need to maintain security in the transit system. Excluding the officers, the reduction in central staff would be closer to 3 percent, he said.

Mayor Bloomberg likes to point out that since taking office in January 2002, he has reduced the staff in his own office by 18 percent, or 104 positions, and the Police Department has shed 3,000 officers, while still managing to take on additional antiterrorism duties. In addition to cutting spending to close multibillion-dollar deficits in recent years, the city also increased the property tax 18.5 percent.

But the authority seems unlikely to embrace the mayor's mantra of efficiency.

At Tuesday's hearing, the chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, said he did not believe the authority could "get to 'no fare hike' just on doing more with less," and he noted that it had reduced spending by $200 million this year and was proposing another $120 million in cuts next year.

The authority, which has an $8.4 billion budget, is projecting a deficit of $745 million this year, rising to $2 billion by 2008. Much of the increase is due to increased interest payments on its debt, which are expected to nearly double to $1.7 billion over the next four years.

Independent budget analysts say the authority cannot hope to close such gaps without a major new source of revenue, like an increase in state and city aid, a tax on commuters from outside New York City or the establishment of tolls on the free East River and Harlem River bridges.

"It's an $8 billion operation, so clearly there has got to be room for savings," said Gene Russianoff, a staff lawyer with the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group. "But no amount of savings is going to address their debt service doubling in a four-year period. You can't belt-tighten your way out of a mountain of debt."

The proposed staff reductions are included in the authority's four-year financial plan, which says the authority "has embarked on an aggressive program to reduce costs and to achieve expense reductions" in its administration. Reductions in administrative spending account for 30 percent of the amount the authority says it needs to close this year's budget deficit. It proposes to come up with the rest by cutting services and raising fares.

The state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, issued a report late last month that was highly critical of the authority's financial management, including its gap-closing plan for this year. Mr. Hevesi said that even the 30 percent reduction in administrative spending failed to focus on staffing levels, which he suggested remain too high.

"Cuts to areas categorized by the M.T.A. as 'administration' total $69.2 million, but two-thirds would come from savings on materials and supplies, postponing new initiatives and from an audit of the employee health benefit trust fund," he wrote.

Mr. Hevesi said the authority still had 698 people in human resources administration, 443 in legal services and 359 in "budget and accounting." By comparison, the city, with a budget of $47 billion, has 257 employees in its Office of Management and Budget.

That the authority's budget documents are even available for public inspection is a change from past years, and reflects a decision by the authority's board to make its financial-planning process more open. Although the greater transparency provides the opportunity for more-informed scrutiny, it also shows that not all of the authority's various departments approach the process of long-range budget cutting with the same degree of enthusiasm.

One department, bridges and tunnels, submitted a plan that includes just one job reduction from a staff of 1,816 people. Another department, Long Island bus, with 1,194 employees, plans no staff cuts for the foreseeable future.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 12th, 2004, 10:15 AM
This really is one of the most bloated agencies around. When you consider the size and concentration areas of their staff, it is hard not have your jaw drop that their only solution is the mantra, "Fare Hike"

November 13th, 2004, 06:32 AM
November 13, 2004

M.T.A. Officials Argue That Fare Increases Are Justified


Katherine N. Lapp, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's executive director, and Peter S. Kalikow, its chairman, at a hearing yesterday.

Top officials of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority defended their proposed fare increases yesterday after a state legislator questioned their recent decision to put a $200 million windfall into a rainy-day fund.

The legislator, Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, the chairman of the Assembly's Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, said the authority had not made its case that a fare increase in 2005 was absolutely necessary. The authority seeks to increase the price of unlimited-ride MetroCards, train tickets and bridge tolls to help close a $436 million gap in its operating budget for next year.

"I do not think you have justified the need for a 5 percent fare hike, based on the events of the last week," Mr. Brodsky told Peter S. Kalikow, the chairman of the authority's board, and Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, during a hearing at the Assembly's office in Lower Manhattan.

Mr. Brodsky was referring to published reports last week that between cost-saving measures and higher-than-expected proceeds from real estate taxes dedicated to the authority, the M.T.A. had an extra $300 million on hand.

Ms. Lapp had recommended using $90 million of the extra money to prevent layoffs and service cuts and $200 million to set up a "stabilization fund," which could either serve as a hedge against future revenue drops or give the authority a head start on closing its projected 2006 operating deficit.

Mr. Kalikow and Ms. Lapp told Mr. Brodsky they thought the fare increases were the best course of action. The agency's most recent proposal calls for the price of a seven-day MetroCard to rise to $24 from $21; the price of a 30-day card to rise to $76, up from $70; fares on the commuter railroads to rise around 5 percent; and bridge and tunnel tolls to go up by 50 cents.

After the meeting, Ms. Lapp and Mr. Kalikow said, in essence, that a rainy-day fund was a necessity given that the agency's long-range budget forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of a deluge of debt. Because of delayed debt-service payments coming due, the projected deficit in the operating budget for 2006 is more than $1 billion, and is set to grow in the years that follow.

"Basically what I've been charged by the M.T.A. board is to come up with a good fiscal plan that will see this agency through its next couple of years when these fiscal problems are looming," Ms. Lapp said.

Mr. Brodsky, who has held a series of hearings on the authority's finances, noted that $200 million was about the amount the fare increase was expected to bring in.

"They have enough revenues to go forward without a fare increase," he said. "Whether that's good long-term policy is a second issue. But they came to us with a model for how you raise fares, that it's used to close an operating gap and it's a last-resort deal. Then they find additional revenue that means they don't have an operating gap, but they want to raise the fare anyway. I have a problem with that."

At least once in the past, the authority tried to put away money in reserve and the savings were raided to help balance the state budget.

Mr. Brodsky, a Democrat, also tried to prod Mr. Kalikow to hold Gov. George E. Pataki responsible for the authority's fiscal problems, which include an $11 billion shortfall in financing for the authority's new five-year capital plan. The governor sets the state's transit policy and appoints more members to the authority's board than any other official, and the agency is generally seen as under his control.

Mr. Kalikow would only say that it would take a coordinated effort by all branches of government to come up with a way to finance the capital program, which pays for long-range maintenance and system expansion. He said the authority would propose a financing plan for the program within a few weeks.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 20th, 2004, 07:41 AM
November 20, 2004

Transit Experts Say Savings Alone Won't Bail Out Agency


Because of discounts on MetroCards, like those sold at this Grand Central stop, subway riders pay less per ride on average than they did in 1996.

The people who run the metropolitan region's financially troubled transit network are getting no shortage of suggestions for how to save money and refrain from demanding more from riders.

Gov. George E. Pataki wants laws passed to streamline the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and possibly reduce its pension costs. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg demands that it rein in "bloated payrolls, out-of-control spending, needless redundancies." State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi says hundreds of desk jobs could be eliminated. Financial watchdogs outside government cite ideas like privatization.

Predicted savings from combining all such ideas range from less than $50 million a year to perhaps as much as $200 million a year, depending on who does the predicting. But the authority says it must come up with at least $14 billion in new revenue over the next five years to cover day-to-day operations, payments on its debts, maintenance and planned capital improvements.

As a result, the people who manage transit systems or study them for a living say the authority needs either much higher fares; or billions of dollars in additional help from City Hall, Albany and Washington; or more likely some combination of both.

"If you're going to keep up the service and make improvements, you're going to raise fares on a regular basis, and you'll need significant, predictable government support," said Robert R. Kiley, commissioner of London's transit network, who was chairman and chief executive of the New York system in the 1980's. "That's been missing in New York."

New York has a century-long tradition of politicians' fighting higher transit fares, a resistance that contributed to the bankruptcy of many private rail and bus companies whose fares were controlled by government. Each proposed increase is typically greeted by great protest, a reaction that may explain why the base fare has risen just once in nine years. Thanks to MetroCard discounts, New York City riders actually pay less per ride on average than they did in 1996.

State subsidies have risen, but only because taxes earmarked for transit generate more money than they used to; the city and state contribute less cash directly from their budgets today than they did in the late 1980's. And these days, the state and city have little money to spare.

The current administration at New York's transportation authority is trying to alter this landscape, to change the way the public and politicians think about how to pay for mass transit. Peter S. Kalikow, the chairman, and Katherine N. Lapp, the executive director, are asking for much more government support and a fare increase, and are talking about regular fare increases every two years.

Despite the occasional call for self-sufficiency, transit experts say that no large system anywhere in the world gets by without heavy government subsidies, and New York's system is less subsidized than most.

"It could never be completely self-supporting," said Robert E. Paaswell, director of the University Transportation Research Center at City College, and a former executive director of the Chicago Transit Authority. "You would have to set the fare so high you would drive away riders."

Adam Barsky, deputy secretary to the governor and Mr. Pataki's liaison to the transportation authority, said higher fares and more government help may be needed, but first, "I think we have to exhaust all of those options and avenues" for cost-cutting.

Of all the ideas that have been floated for raising or saving money without higher fares or government subsidies, there are just two that, according to their supporters, could generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year: turning some of the bus lines over to private companies, and putting tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges. But such claims are not universally accepted, and each idea would face fierce political opposition.

Some conservatives say cities like London and San Diego have had some success in turning bus lines over to private companies through competitive bidding.

"We took a pretty good look at this a couple of years ago and concluded that they could save 38 percent on bus operations," said E. J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a policy research group. Even so, he said, fares would need to be higher.

Transit officials and more liberal analysts contend that privatization would save little money, if any, in part because federal law makes it hard to cut labor costs by transferring the service to private contractors. Labor unions and many politicians would try to block any move to turn bus service over to private lines, and even Mr. Pataki, a Republican who generally favors privatization, has never embraced the idea.

Groups like the Independent Budget Office and the Regional Plan Association have promoted the idea of charging tolls on the city-owned East River and Harlem River bridges, and investing the revenue in mass transit. This idea is raised every few years, and never gathers much support, and would also need the approval of the State Legislature.

Savings from the more widely accepted ideas, like streamlining administration, merging some offices and changing the way pensions are financed, would most likely be measured in the tens of millions of dollars a year, according to government and transit officials.

As it tries to solve its budget problems, the transportation authority may look to the examples of other urban centers. While these may be apples-and-oranges comparisons, they typically show that riders in the New York region bear a greater share of the financial burden for their transit systems than riders elsewhere.

New York City subway fares, for instance, pay about two-thirds of the cost of operating the subway, and more than one-third of the combined operating and capital expenses. Those are higher proportions than those of any other big transit system in the country, according to figures compiled by the American Public Transportation Association and the federal Department of Transportation.

By the same measures, New York City's buses rank near the top among the nation's bus systems, and the authority's Metro-North and the Long Island railroads are around the middle of the pack of commuter railroads.

New York's transit officials like to cite those figures, but the comparison to other American cities is imperfect. New York's system, especially the subway, is so much more heavily used that it is almost guaranteed to collect far more fares per train, or per mile, allowing it to be more self-sufficient.

The most apt comparison may be abroad, with major cities like London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Hong Kong and Tokyo. New York's system is more self-sufficient than most, but not all.

London's transit system comes closer to paying its operating costs, in part because its fares are higher. But it cannot cover most capital costs, one reason the Tube has fallen into disrepair over the years. New lines added over the last three decades were paid by the central government, even under no less an opponent of big government than Margaret Thatcher.

Hong Kong's subway is often cited as the only one in the world that pays all or nearly all its expenses, but it is a smaller, more crowded system than New York's, generating many more fares per mile. In addition, land that the government sold at a depressed price to the subway system soared in value when a new line was built there, turning the transit agency into one of the city's biggest landlords. Income from that real estate helps pay for the subway.

"Various people, including us, have tried to compare the world's great transit systems, how they perform financially," said Mr. Kiley, the London transit chief. "There's no clear answer, of course, but it's safe to say New York holds its own."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 20th, 2004, 10:13 AM
"...charging tolls on the city-owned East River and Harlem River bridges, and investing the revenue in mass transit. This idea is raised every few years, and never gathers much support..."

Why not?

This seems like such a natural idea. It would simultaneously raise revenues and cut congestion, especially if the tolls were high, like Livingstone's congestion tax in London. And if the tolls were low it would hardly have any impact on bridge users, who are a relatively small percentage of commuters anyway.

Cabbies and truckers? Just part of the cost of doing business.

November 20th, 2004, 01:38 PM
rasing on those bridges would make it MORE congested to me, I think.Cars would have to wait in line to go through the toll, and you know how it gets crowded sometimes. Areas around the bridges would probably become high traffic 24/7

November 20th, 2004, 09:40 PM
November 21, 2004


Fix Today's System First

Commuters in the New York area are expected to sigh with relief now that proposed fare and toll increases have been cut back from horrific to unwelcome. That lukewarm news, however, obscures a far more important point. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority still faces a $436 million deficit this fiscal year, and that shortfall may as much as triple next year. Even the fare increases that have been postponed would have been only a modest down payment on the huge bill to come.

The authority is run by officials who are basically the creatures of the state and local politicians who appointed them. Those same officials have been the cause of many of their own problems by criticizing fare hikes while promoting new building programs the system cannot afford. The authority adopted an unsustainable $17 billion capital improvement plan in 2000, and the politicians are still talking about grand plans for new subway lines hither and yon.

The bottom line is this: Nobody should be planning new lines and tunnels if we cannot afford to maintain or upgrade what we already have. That means that Gov. George Pataki should give up on his hopes for a tunnel across the East River to link Long Island and Grand Central Terminal. It means that Mayor Michael Bloomberg should stop pining for a rapid connection from downtown to Kennedy Airport, or for an extension of the No. 7 subway line to the West Side of Manhattan. It means that the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, will have to stop dreaming about cutting the ribbon on a new Second Avenue subway from the Upper East Side to his district in Chinatown.

We like most of those plans, particularly the extension of the No. 7, which is a much more efficient key to developing the far West Side than Mr. Bloomberg's ill-advised football stadium. But politicians cannot ask for more until they have made sure that existing infrastructure is in good working order and that commuters paying higher fares will not have to wait in longer lines for fewer buses.

State Comptroller Alan Hevesi has some good ideas for cutting costs, but the mass transit system cannot get out of its current hole solely by trimming fat. Mr. Pataki and the State Legislature should look for an inventive revenue source - like a small increase in income taxes for those in the authority's region, a kind of commuter tax for all users. And Mr. Bloomberg should find a way to contribute more.

In short, the politicians whose job it is to protect the system should spend less time dreaming of the future and more time in the here and now.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
November 20th, 2004, 09:59 PM
And East Siders' hopes for some relief are crushed yet again. Maybe they'll get it right in another 29 years.

November 20th, 2004, 09:59 PM
AGREED. Anyways...is the nyc subway the largest subway system in the world? in terms of length?

December 4th, 2004, 12:11 AM
December 4, 2004

M.T.A. Seeks Tax Increases Over 5 Years


Moving to address its financial crisis, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is proposing to increase a half-dozen business, real estate and fuel taxes to raise $900 million a year to help pay for the transit network's five-year rebuilding program.

The proposal by the authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, is being presented to the Pataki administration and the State Legislature as a way to deal with the authority's crushing debt and capital costs, a financial burden that has forced the authority to consider a mix of transit fare increases and service cuts when the authority's board meets Dec. 16. Mr. Kalikow is an appointee of Gov. George E. Pataki, and his plan presents a challenge to the Republican governor, an ardent opponent of higher taxes who has yet to come up with his own plan to meet the expenses.

The proposal includes raising the real property transfer tax and mortgage recording taxes, new levies that could cost homeowners and businesses hundreds if not thousands of additional dollars during property transactions. Mr. Kalikow also proposed raising corporate taxes and the petroleum business tax, a tax paid by importers of foreign fuel. The new taxes, to be applied statewide, would not prevent the fare increases or cutbacks that are being considered this month, but by supplying the debt service on a bond issue, it could improve the authority's financial situation in future years.

In an effort to demonstrate the authority's desperate financial situation and gain support for a plan that could be politically volatile, Mr. Kalikow and Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, have been meeting quietly over the past two weeks with business leaders from groups like the Real Estate Board of New York and the Partnership for New York City.

The authority needs to come up with $16 billion in new revenue over the next five years to cover planned capital improvements, like bringing the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal and buying new rail cars for the Metro-North system. Of that, $11 billion is needed just to keep the system in good repair. The authority has also announced that it will need a series of additional fare increases starting in 2007 to cover multibillion-dollar operating deficits projected for the coming years.

Mr. Kalikow developed his plan partly because of the lack of action in Albany to deal with the authority's fiscal problems. The new capital plan starts in January, and any plan to raise taxes would have to gain approval from the Legislature and the governor.

People who have spoken with authority executives say the tax increases, which would be earmarked exclusively for transportation, would provide a stream of cash enabling the authority to float up to $13 billion in bonds.

Mr. Kalikow and Ms. Lapp yesterday confirmed that they had begun talking to civic and business groups about a solution to their fiscal woes. But they declined to go into detail. The authority is expected to deliver the proposal on Monday to the Capital Program Review Board, which is made up of appointees of the governor, the legislative leadership and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Although civic and business groups have generally been united in their support for the transportation authority's rebuilding program, Mr. Kalikow's proposal is getting mixed reviews even before it reaches Albany.

"We're not thrilled at higher taxes," said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York. But, he added: "The capital plan is important, and we recognize that the industry is going to have to share in the pain. This seems to be a fair attempt to have everyone participate in the pain of raising $12 billion."

Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, and Richard Ravitch, a former authority chairman, expressed strong support for the plan, because, they said, the region needs a thriving public transportation system to prosper.

Mitchell Pally, vice president for government affairs for the Long Island Association, a business group, did not disagree, but he opposed increasing business taxes.

"I don't think there's any question that the business community is going to have to pay a larger share than it pays now," Mr. Pally said. "The question is what is equitable and what that share should be. I would say, at least in relation to the corporate surcharge, that is going to be a very difficult sell."

Kathryn S. Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, which met with Mr. Kalikow and Ms. Lapp on Thursday, said that Mr. Kalikow was "absolutely right to be fighting for whatever resources are necessary" to keep the region's subways and trains running. But, she said, her group also opposes increasing business taxes.

She said her group favored reinstating a commuter tax, which would effectively ask people in the outlying suburbs to pay their share of the costs. But, she said, Mr. Kalikow believes that the commuter tax is not viable politically. That tax, in any event, would raise less than half the amount in the authority's proposal.

"The commuter tax is the fairest way to go," Ms. Wylde said, "but if it's not feasible, we'll have to go to Plan B."

At a hearing sponsored by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky last month, Mr. Kalikow promised to put forward his own plan to revitalize the authority.

"Peter Kalikow is keeping not just a promise he made to my committee but to everybody," Mr. Brodsky said yesterday. "He's made a lot of people very uncomfortable. If you don't have a good subway and commuter system, the economy will falter. The leaders of the private sector will have to make some harder choices."

The decision by the authority to peddle its own plan to pay for its capital program is an unusual one. Those plans have traditionally been left to politicians to devise. The one notable exception came in the 1980's, when the system was on the verge of collapse and Chairman Ravitch came up with the idea to issue a five-year capital program to pay for repairs and lobbied for a slew of dedicated taxes to pay for it.

Portions of six separate taxes are already dedicated to the authority. Mr. Kalikow is proposing a 50 percent increase in the amount of money generated by these taxes. For instance, under the proposal, the one-quarter-percent portion of the mortgage recording tax and the transfer tax on commercial buildings that goes to the authority would be increased to three-eighths of a percent.

Beverly Dolinsky, the executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the authority, said, "Usually, the M.T.A. states the problem and leaves it up to their funding partners to come up with the solutions." But, she added: "The funding partners have not been forthcoming. At least this starts the discussion."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 5th, 2004, 08:58 PM
MTA to ask for tax boost


December 5, 2004, 8:37 PM EST

The MTA will today ask for a 50 percent boost in revenues from several state taxes to help pay for a five-year program to expand, maintain and secure the region's transportation network, officials said Sunday.

But the plan might not have the support of Gov. George Pataki, who controls the MTA and whose support for the tax hike would be critical.

"The governor ardently opposes tax increases and has not yet been presented with this proposal by the MTA," a spokeswoman, Lynn Rasic, said Sunday.

She declined to say how the governor plans to fund the capital plan, which faces a $16 billion hole.

MTA chairman Peter Kalikow's request, made in a letter to be sent to a state panel that oversees the capital program, warns that if the funds are not forthcoming, the region's transit network could slide into disrepair.

What's more, the MTA might also be forced to abandon ambitious expansion projects like the Second Avenue Subway and the Long Island Rail Road connection to Grand Central Terminal in favor of basic maintenance.

"There is no question that expansion is the proper policy to pursue," Kalikow says in the letter, which was read to a reporter. "But without the core program to shore up our existing infrastructure, the transit system will inevitably begin to deteriorate, and we will not let that happen."

A 50-percent increase in the taxes would generate about $850 million a year, officials said. The capital program calls for $27.6 billion to be spent from 2005 to 2009.

Kalikow asks for increases in real estate, business, gas and other taxes, but no change to the sales tax. He has previously indicated a willingness to float more fare-backed bonds to pay for the next program, even as debt service from previous bonds is causing significant strain on the agency's operating budget. The authority is expected to raise fares on Dec. 16, but still faces a deficit of more than $1 billion in 2006.

Kalikow set a deadline of mid to late 2005 for an increase in state aid to the agency, saying that if money doesn't begin to flow by then, he will direct executive director Katherine Lapp to use an unspecified amount once slated for expansion projects for maintenance instead.

"We cannot jeopardize our core infrastructure," he wrote.

December 7th, 2004, 02:05 AM
December 7, 2004

Winners in M.T.A.'s Bond Sale: Underwriters and Politicians


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.

Yet for two small groups involved in the $14 billion borrowing - the seven private underwriting firms commissioned by the M.T.A. to raise the money, and leading state political figures who wield influence over the M.T.A. - the bond issue has been an unambiguous success, an analysis of public records shows.

The sales of the new bonds generated an estimated $85 million in commissions and fees to the M.T.A.'s bond underwriters, lawyers and financial advisers.

In pursuit of a share of profits from those and other M.T.A. deals, the underwriters reported that they paid more than $3 million to consultants, among them three men with ties to Gov. George E. Pataki, who appoints the M.T.A. chairman.

And even though the securities industry has tried to limit campaign contributions by companies doing bond work for public agencies, the firms hired by the M.T.A. gave at least $1.1 million to state political funds since 2000, when the decision to borrow the money was announced.

Their political contributions peaked in 2002, when most of the bonds were issued. That year, the firms made $408,000 in campaign contributions, twice as much as they gave in the years before and after.

The largest was a check for $100,000 paid to the New York State Republican Housekeeping Fund in 2002 by a political action committee at J. P. Morgan Chase, which was the lead underwriter that year on $1.8 billion in M.T.A. bonds. A spokesman for the bank, Michael Dorfsman, would not say what prompted the contribution.

A spokesman for the M.T.A., Tom Kelly, said the contributions had no bearing on which underwriting firms were selected. All of the M.T.A. underwriters work with other New York agencies as well.

Since 2000, the state's Republican Party or its candidates received about $2 from the M.T.A. underwriters for every $1 given to Democrats, the records show.

In that period, UBS Financial Services gave $62,000 to the Conservative Party, a small but influential presence in New York that has delivered its spot on the ballot to Governor Pataki all three times he was elected. UBS also contributed $115,000 to the Democratic Party, which controls the State Assembly, and $109,000 to the Republicans, who hold a majority in the State Senate, along with the governor's office.

A spokeswoman for UBS, Susan Austin, said, "All contributions made by UBS Financial Services Inc. as a firm - and contributions made by the firm's employees - are made in compliance" with industry rules and state laws.

The adequacy of those rules has been reconsidered in recent months by the governing body of the public finance industry, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, which has expressed concern that government agencies, known as issuers, have pressured underwriters seeking their business to hire certain consultants or make political contributions, according to the board's executive director, Christopher A. Taylor.

"The board members are well aware of what practices are going on, the pressures being brought to bear on them by issuers," Mr. Taylor said. "We were looking at trends that caused concern on the part of the board: increased use of consultants, increased compensation, increased political giving." He was speaking, he said, about the industry in general and not a specific agency.

In the early 1990's, the board developed regulations to eliminate "pay to play," the practice of underwriters making campaign contributions in exchange for public business. Even so, these rules - issued after widely reported scandals in the industry - have allowed underwriting firms to continue to make substantial political contributions in New York and elsewhere.

Political money may be given by affiliates of the underwriters not directly involved in public finance or can be channeled into general party housekeeping accounts, Mr. Taylor said. The board warned the industry last year that payments to political housekeeping accounts could not be used to make contributions that were otherwise forbidden, he said.

As for consultants, the board recently proposed banning them but dropped the idea after protests from its members, Mr. Taylor said. It is now considering other limitations.

Nixon Peabody, a law firm that was paid $812,000 by the M.T.A. to work on the bond issue - and which is not bound by the same nominal limits on political donations as the underwriters - has given $91,000 to Friends of Pataki since 2000, making it the largest corporate contributor to the governor's campaign.

The firm works with many agencies in New York other than the M.T.A. Including contributions from some of its partners, the firm gave at least $232,000 to public officials and political parties at every level of government in the state, the records show.

Arthur F. McMahon, a partner in the firm, did not respond to a request for comment.

Goldman Sachs, which was paid $12 million by the M.T.A. to be a financial adviser on the bond refinancing deal, gave at least $136,500 to state Republicans and Democrats.

The smallest amount given by any M.T.A. underwriter was $7,000 from a firm then called Salomon Smith Barney.

In 2000, when the M.T.A. solicited proposals for the underwriting positions, Merrill Lynch contributed $15,000 each to the housekeeping accounts of the state Republican and Democratic parties; in mid-2002, the company hired Powers, Crane & Company, a firm that included William Powers, the former chairman of the state's Republican Party.

Mr. Powers, now in a firm called Powers & Company, is being paid $16,000 a month to help Merrill Lynch gain state business, according to the latest disclosure records. He did not return a call requesting a comment on his role.

Mr. Kelly, the M.T.A. spokesman, said that seemingly influential consultants played no role in the choice of underwriters. "None of the people that you mention were involved in the selection process, met with anyone in the selection committee, or to the best of what they're telling me, ever discussed it with anybody," Mr. Kelly said.

At least two of the M.T.A.'s underwriters, however, stated unequivocally that their consultants helped them get M.T.A. business, according to disclosure forms.

First Albany, which did not participate in the $14 billion refinancing but went on to capture other M.T.A. work, listed Davidson & O'Mara as its consultant, for a fee that reached $20,000 a month. John O'Mara, the former chairman of the Public Services Commission under Governor Pataki, is a partner in the firm. He is the chairman of a panel that screens judicial candidates for the governor, and also represents him in negotiations over Indian tribal land claims, many related to casino development.

First Albany did not reply to a request to discuss the matter, but shortly after it was selected as one of the underwriters for M.T.A. work in 2000, the company reported that Mr. O'Mara had made that happen. "First Albany was recently appointed to the senior manager rotation of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority," the report stated, under the heading "municipal securities business obtained or retained" by the O'Mara firm. The report was submitted to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

Similarly, disclosure forms filed by UBS Financial Services state that Douglas Rutnik, employed at a fee of $5,000 a month, plus bonuses, helped it win M.T.A. business. Beginning in 2003, he was employed by Morgan Stanley at $10,000 a month, plus bonuses, according to disclosure forms, but these do not list any successes.

Mr. Rutnik, who did not respond to a request for comment, is solidly grounded in both political parties. A prominent upstate Democrat, he was a frequent hunting companion of the late Erastus Corning, the mayor of Albany for 42 years, and he has also been the companion of Zenia Mucha, the former director of communications for Governor Pataki. Mark Lane, a spokesman for Morgan Stanley, said the firm would not discuss Mr. Rutnik's services.

The M.T.A. bond sales are described in the industry as the largest refinancing in the history of municipal bonds. The amount of money borrowed is more than the cost of the most expensive public works projects ever undertaken by the state. Yet only a fraction of it will go toward the purchase of tangible new things like subway cars or new track.

Most of the money raised went to paying off existing bonds that were due to be retired within the next decade. The interest on the bonds that replaced them will continue until 2034. In effect, the M.T.A. has prolonged the payments for equipment bought years ago, and increased the interest costs by $8.6 billion, according to a report by Alan G. Hevesi, the state comptroller, and Kenneth B. Bleiwas, the deputy state comptroller for New York City.

Gene Russianoff, who has closely monitored the transit system for 25 years as a leader of the Straphangers Campaign, warned in 2000 that the refinancing plan, while granting a short spell of fiscal peace, simply postponed some problems and would cripple the system with debt. In a rare alliance, Mr. Russianoff was joined in his critique by a former M.T.A. chairman, Robert R. Kiley, and the president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, Sonny Hall, as well as independent budget monitors.

Nevertheless, a capital review board with delegates from the State Legislature, the governor and the city gave their approval to the refinancing.

M.T.A. officials said that by refinancing at lower interest rates - along with improvements to its bond ratings - the agency received about $4 billion in "new money." That let the agency pay for its capital program for a short period without immediate pressure on the state budget or transit fares.

That respite has ended. The annual interest costs borne by the transit system will double between this year and 2008, according to the controller. By then, payment on the debt will command 21 cents of every dollar collected by the M.T.A.. Even with significant service cuts, M.T.A. officials say, fare increases will be needed to pay the mounting debt burden and higher labor costs.

Moreover, the costs of the 2002 bond refinancing will absorb so much money in the coming decades that the M.T.A. does not have funds to pay for ordinary replacement of equipment and facilities that have reached the end of their useful lives.

When Mr. Hevesi issued a report critical of the M.T.A. in late October, Peter Kalikow, the current chairman of the M.T.A., said responsibility for the $14 billion borrowing program rested not just with the M.T.A. but across a spectrum of New York public officials.

"He ignores the fact that the entire plan and its financing structure were unanimously approved by the Capital Program Review Board, comprised of representatives of both city and state government," Mr. Kalikow said in a written reply to Mr. Hevesi's report, alluding to Mr. Hevesi.

Last week, Mr. Kalikow proposed an array of tax increases to finance the agency's capital needs.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 7th, 2004, 08:23 AM
New roadblock for MTA funding plan

Staff Writer

December 6, 2004, 9:22 PM EST

The MTA's plan to fund capital projects by raising several state taxes suffered another setback Monday, when a key state legislator said he was against the idea.

A day after Gov. George Pataki raised similar concerns, Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), one of four members of a state panel that reviews the MTA's capital program, said he would not support increases before the authority pares down what Skelos considers an irresponsible wish-list.

"Before you figure out how to pay for something, you have to figure out what you need to pay," said spokesman Thomas Dunham. "They've limited any dialogue to the 'Cadillac' plan that they first floated."

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials, faced with a $16 billion gap in the agency's five-year capital plan, propose that the legislature and governor raise by 50 percent several taxes, including some statewide, real estate transactions, car fees, gas and other items.

The boost is expected to yield $850 million annually, which would be used to pay off debt service. That money would then be used to pay for the system's maintenance, expansion and security.

The suggestion drew immediate resistance from Pataki, who appointed MTA chairman Peter Kalikow and largely controls the agency. The governor has long said he is opposed to increasing taxes.

Why Kalikow would propose an idea that would be rejected by his boss was the subject of debate yesterday among transit observers.

An MTA spokesman would not comment. But Mortimer L. Downey, who served as the agency's chief financial officer and then executive director in the 1980s and 1990s, said that Kalikow might have simply wanted to begin talks on funding.

"I see this just as an opening round," said Downey, now a Washington-based transportation consultant. "It puts the ball on the other side of the court."

Others speculate that Kalikow was seeking to elbow into the fray for funds ahead of the release of the governor's executive budget in January. Pataki is under intense pressure to pay for the bulk of a $5.6 billion annual subsidy that a state panel earlier this month ruled needed to be added to city schools funds.

The MTA's tax increase proposal is now before the Capital Program Review Board, which consists of representatives from the governor, both houses of the State Legislature and the New York City mayor.

A State Assembly representative declined to comment, while a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that city officials were reviewing it.

But Kalikow's proposal received praise yesterday from the planning group, Regional Plan Association, and the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonpartisan economic research organization.

"This is an important first step," said James Parrott, the Fiscal Policy Institute's deputy director and chief economist. "The clock is ticking on the five-year MTA capital plan, and there needs to be resolution on this."

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

alex ballard
December 7th, 2004, 08:37 PM
I say we cut city transit from the MTA and have a "NYCTA" come back. The MTA can serve as an umbrella angency over NYCTA, LICTA (they would control Long Island/Suffolk bus and the LIRR), UWTA (stands for Upstate and Westchester Transit Authority, they would control all upstate NY bus systems and the MNRR), Then the city gets it's fare share and the suburbs have to anty up.

December 9th, 2004, 12:40 PM
MTA budget approvals pave way for fare hike


December 8, 2004, 10:10 PM EST

A pair of MTA committees Wednesday approved portions of the agency's 2005 operating budget, beginning a process likely to culminate next Thursday, when officials are expected to approve an overall budget that would raise fares and tolls.

The budgets for the Long Island Rail Road and MTA Bridges and Tunnels offer major differences of how, in addition to fare and toll hikes, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is confronting a $116-million deficit next year.

The LIRR plans to slash more than a dozen scheduled trains, shutter ticket offices on weekends and delay cleaning. In all, more than 100 positions out of 6,300 will be lost through attrition.

By contrast, Bridges and Tunnels will grow by four people, bringing its total to 1,815. It also will start charging a $1 monthly fee for E-ZPass holders.

Michael Ascher, Bridges and Tunnels president, said the additions were consistent with guidelines ordered by the MTA headquarters. Officials there have previously said the agency's ranks have recently decreased as a result of E-ZPass.

The MTA's refusal to couple fare hikes with large cuts has drawn complaints from Mayor Michael Bloomberg in recent weeks, including yesterday at a City Hall news conference.

"They have to learn to do more with less," Bloomberg said of MTA officials. The mayor directed his four MTA board delegates to vote for the last hike in March 2003, but is expected to instruct them to reject it next week. Still, enough votes are expected for the proposal to pass.

The proposal calls for monthly MetroCards to rise from $70 to $76, weekly unlimited MetroCards to increase from $21 to $24 and express bus fares to go from $4 to $5.

Commuter rail prices will also jump an average of 5 percent. Tolls at major bridges will increase by 50 cents, while tolls at minor spans will rise 25 cents.

If approved, the new fares are expected to begin in March. It would be the second time fares were raised in two years.

Staff writer Joie Tyrrell contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

December 9th, 2004, 11:20 PM
December 10, 2004

M.T.A. Considers Property Deals to Reduce Debt


In an effort to raise more than $1 billion, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to sell or lease for commercial use many of its 14,000 properties, including train stations, commuter parking lots and maintenance yards.

The move to raise money comes as the agency, struggling to deal with a crushing debt, is expected to vote next week to increase fares. In a separate step to help the authority through its fiscal crisis, state officials are also considering taking up to $1 billion a year in sales tax revenue that goes to New York City and instead giving it to the authority, people briefed on their discussions said yesterday.

As part of its proposal to raise money from its huge portfolio of properties, the authority is looking to hire a real estate consultant and broker to review its landholdings and buildings and draw up a plan for marketing them to developers and business owners. The agency has already solicited proposals to renovate a handful of historic train stations in the suburbs to accommodate retail shops and offices, similar to what it has long done at Grand Central Terminal.

At the Hastings, Pelham, Port Chester, Spring Valley, Tarrytown, Tuckahoe and Yonkers stations on the Metro-North Railroad, for example, the authority wants to retrofit the entire buildings for commercial use, with the exception of space for a ticket booth, rest rooms and a public waiting area. The authority said the distinctive antique stations, some with tile or slate roofs, offer businesses an "excellent opportunity to quickly create an acknowledged presence in each community."

In an 11-page request for proposals from real estate consultants that was issued last month, the authority said it was also interested in promoting development opportunities at other stations and parking areas on the Metro-North and Long Island lines, as well as "all rail yards, fan plants, substations, bus depots" and other properties belonging to the New York City Transit system.

The attempt to generate revenue from its vast real estate holdings is the latest example of the transportation authority and government officials taking unorthodox steps to deal with a growing financial crisis that has forced the authority to consider a mix of fare increases and service cuts when its board meets next week.

Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, said in an interview this week that by turning its attention to real estate, the authority hopes to raise $1 billion for its capital budget from the sale of property and air rights over authority-owned yards, as well as money for its operating budget from the stepped-up leasing of train stations for shops and offices.

"Given this agency, and the demands we have to meet, no stone can be left unturned," Ms. Lapp said. "A billion dollars is a real aggressive target. But it is possible. We've got to try, and that's what this request for proposals is all about."

The $1 billion goal, she said, includes estimated profits from the sale of air rights over rail yards in Brooklyn for a basketball arena for the Nets and on the West Side of Manhattan for a football stadium for the Jets. But Ms. Lapp said she could also envision, for example, selling parcels of surplus property for commercial development along the 1,000 miles of right-of-way the authority controls near commuter rail lines and bridges.

By committing the proceeds of property sales to its capital budget, which finances the construction or improvement of physical assets, the authority would not be narrowing the multibillion-dollar gaps projected for its operating budget in the next few years. But it would allow the authority to avoid going further into debt by using the cash to pay for capital improvements, such as the purchase of new subway cars.

The authority's plan to raise fares and impose service cuts to close deficits in its operating budget has angered rider advocates and politicians, who say the state and city must increase their subsidies for mass transit and the authority should do more to cut administrative expenses. Any additional income from leases and rentals, which currently total roughly $200 million a year, would help balance the operating budget.

Unlike some of its earlier initiatives, like the idea to sell naming rights, the real estate plan has elicited mostly positive reactions. Andrew Albert, who represents the New York City Transit Riders Council on the authority's board, said the transportation authority needs to seek all possible remedies for its fiscal quandary.

"It's probably a good idea," Mr. Albert said. "They are facing a tremendous shortfall, and anything they can do, shy of cutting service or safety, it seems to me is prudent to do."

Roger A. Lowenthal, a senior vice president of the Greenberg Group, a real estate consulting service in Hewlett, N.Y., said there would be a limited number of retailers interested in renting space in a small suburban train station, although larger transit hubs, like Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central, are more attractive. At most stations, he said, the customer base is "the breakfast crowd" in the morning, rather than at night, when commuters are in a hurry to get home and would not take the time to hang around and shop.

"At the smaller stations, you have a steady base of Monday-through-Friday traffic, but it is limited because you're only going to get the people who go in and out of that specific station by train," Mr. Lowenthal said. "From a retailer's perspective, it's a small percentage of the potential."

At the Pelham station, the authority recently signed a lease agreement with Houlihan/Lawrence, a Westchester County real estate company that is opening an office in a 500-square-foot part of the building that once housed a taxi stand. Stephen Meyers, the company's president, said Houlihan/Lawrence is paying for renovations needed for the new office, in keeping with requirements of the State Historic Preservation Office.

"Opening an office in a train station is definitely a little different, but that's part of the attraction," Mr. Meyers said. "We saw it as an excellent opportunity to have an incredible presence in town, because so many people come through the train station every day."

While the plan to generate revenue from agency properties was devised by authority officials, Gov. George E. Pataki has also asked his administration to explore options to raise money for the agency. Although the administration has not signed off on any plan, one of the options they are weighing calls for taking $1 billion worth of the city's sales tax, which had been used to pay off the city's remaining debt from the 1970's, and giving it each year to the authority.

That money is no longer needed to pay off the remaining 1970's debt, since the State Legislature agreed in 2003 to pay it off over the next 30 years to help the city recover from the economic aftershocks of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - a move that Governor Pataki vetoed, and then unsuccessfully sued to stop after his veto was overridden.

And that part of the sales tax - one percentage point - is set to be phased out in 2008, when the law that shepherded the city through the fiscal crisis of the 70's expires. But the city is counting on getting the tax extended in its future financial plans.

So if the money were to be diverted to the agency before or after 2008, it would have the effect of blowing a $1 billion hole in the city's budget, which is already facing multibillion-dollar shortfalls.

Aides to Governor Pataki emphasized that while the administration is weighing many options, it has not settled on any plans or proposals yet. "The governor hasn't made any decision, and there are any number of proposals out there," said Lisa Dewald Stoll, the governor's communications director.

But several people said that aides to the governor had mentioned the proposal to use the sales tax in recent discussions about how to carry the M.T.A. through its current crisis.

Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, declined to comment on the preliminary proposal.

But a city official said he had a hard time believing Governor Pataki would support such a plan. "The bottom line is it would create a $1 billion hole in the city's budget," the official said. "I don't think the governor's office would be interested in doing that."

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who oversees the transit agency as the chairman of the Assembly's committee on corporations, authorities and commissions, said he was troubled by the proposal to get city taxpayers to bear the burden of keeping the transit system afloat.

"The governor has no right to punish the people of New York City to keep the transit system of New York City in good repair," he said.

Last week, the agency's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, who was appointed by Governor Pataki, outlined his own proposal to increase a half-dozen business, real estate and fuel taxes to raise $900 million a year to help pay for the authority's five-year rebuilding program. His proposal got a cool reception in Albany.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 11th, 2004, 12:08 AM
December 11, 2004

Facing Deficit, M.T.A. Gave a 22% Raise to Its Director


The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is seeking a fare increase and new state taxes to stanch a growing budget deficit, approved a 22 percent pay raise for the authority's executive director last year; the raise took effect last January.

The action by the chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, raised the annual salary of the authority's highest-paid officer, Katherine N. Lapp, to $235,000 from $192,500.

The pay increase was not publicly discussed, though Mr. Kalikow said there was no requirement to do so.

Mr. Kalikow and other officials said the increase was an appropriate step because the presidents of New York City Transit, Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road had received substantial pay increases in 2002 and 2003.

For several months at the end of last year, all three presidents were paid more than Ms. Lapp, to whom they report.

"It was absolutely an appropriate and correct thing to do," Mr. Kalikow said of the raises. "I think our guys are absolutely compensated correctly."

The salary of Ms. Lapp, a lawyer who was appointed in 2002, is in line with that of heads at other major urban transit systems.

The top official of the metropolitan transit agency in Boston is paid $225,000; in Chicago, $197,750; in Los Angeles, $302,375; in the San Francisco Bay area, $269,717; and in Washington, $259,088, officials with the five transit agencies said this week.

Direct comparisons with other urban transit systems are difficult, however, because of the New York system's size and because it is an amalgamation of two commuter railroads, a bus system on Long Island and New York City Transit, the largest component. Each of the four transit agencies has its own history, organizational culture and administrative staff and operates with relative autonomy.

The pay raise for Ms. Lapp, who was appointed by the M.T.A. board with support from Gov. George E. Pataki, was approved after the heads of the authority's largest subsidiaries were awarded substantial raises starting in 2002. The pay increases are reflected in payroll records obtained from the authority under the state's Freedom of Information Law and were discussed by officials interviewed yesterday.

Ms. Lapp did not respond to an e-mail message inquiring about her raise. The authority referred all questions about the pay raises to Mr. Kalikow and to Thomas J. Kelly, the M.T.A.'s spokesman.

In April 2002, the president of New York City Transit, Lawrence G. Reuter, negotiated a new contract with the authority. His salary rose by 23 percent, to $225,000 from $182,500.

A year later, in April 2003, the president of Metro-North Railroad, Peter Cannito, renegotiated his contract and received a 25 percent pay increase, to $215,000 from $172,500.

In October 2003, the senior vice president for operations at the Long Island Rail Road, James J. Dermody, was named its president. He is paid $215,000, the same as Mr. Cannito. He previously made $172,010.

Two other agency heads also received substantial salary increases last year.

Michael C. Ascher, the president of M.T.A. Bridges and Tunnels - also known as the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority - received a new contract, raising his salary to $182,500 from $157,500.

Mysore L. Nagaraja was appointed the first president of the authority's new Capital Construction Company, with a salary of $182,500.

Mr. Nagaraja had been the senior vice president for capital program management at New York City Transit, where he was paid $161,000.

Most of the M.T.A.'s 65,000 employees receive annual raises up to 3 percent. Ms. Lapp and the five agency presidents receive other compensation in addition to their base salaries. They each receive a $13,000 annual contribution - the maximum amount allowed this year under federal rules - to their retirement plans under Section 457, a pension arrangement.

Ms. Lapp and Mr. Reuter also receive a $4,000 monthly housing allowance, while Mr. Cannito, Mr. Dermody and Mr. Nagaraja each receive $3,500 a month for housing. Mr. Ascher was not given a housing allowance.

The salaries were negotiated by Gary J. Dellaverson, the director of labor relations at the authority, in consultation with Ms. Lapp. In the case of Ms. Lapp's salary, he said, he consulted with Mr. Kalikow to determine the size of the pay raise. Mr. Dellaverson, a lawyer who has worked for the authority since 1990, is paid $187,975, second only to Ms. Lapp among officials who work at the authority's headquarters.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Kalikow, who has been chairman of the authority since 2001, said the salaries of Ms. Lapp and the agency presidents were not based on formal evaluations, but on his ongoing assessment of their work. He added that the officials could easily make far more in the private sector.

"I evaluate them because I work with them every day," he said. "I speak with them three or four times a day sometimes. I speak with them in crisis issues and planning issues. I have a pretty good idea about how they function. I'd put this group of people up against anybody."

Barry Feinstein, a prominent board member who has worked with four chairmen since 1989, said, "I don't have difficulties with wages for that level of executive being established by the chairman of the M.T.A."

But an advocate for transit customers said the raises sent the wrong message to the public.

"The M.T.A. claims that it's doing internal belt-tightening in the face of these budget deficits while it's giving quiet and large salary increases at the same time," said Neysa C. Pranger of the Straphangers Campaign, a project of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which is financed by philanthropic foundations. "It's hard to believe the M.T.A. is living up to its word."

Mr. Kalikow, a real estate developer who does not receive a salary, said the board was not required to formally vote on the pay increases, which are made at the chairman's discretion. The next round of raises could begin in April, when Mr. Reuter's contract is up for renegotiation.

"We don't discuss people's wages, which we think is their own business," Mr. Kalikow said. "We do discuss it officially, on and off the record, with the board members. Nobody is completely unaware of what everybody is making."


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 15th, 2004, 06:00 AM
December 15, 2004

Little Outcry as M.T.A. Prepares to Raise Fares


The last two times the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to raise fares, in 1995 and 2003, it faced denunciations from angry commuters and lawsuits from riders' groups.

But as the board prepares to vote tomorrow on another increase in fares for subways, buses and commuter railroads, it faces only scattered resistance and subdued emotions. The fare increases are widely expected to pass.

"Most people feel the same way I do - that there's nothing to be done," said Edwin Evans, 34, a video store worker who lives in Harlem. "No one is talking about it, but it's affecting us all."

There are several possible explanations for the muted reaction. On the subways and local buses, the proposed increase applies only to unlimited-ride MetroCards, making its effect harder for riders to measure than last year's increase, which raised the base fare to $2 from $1.50.

There is still some fatigue among riders' advocates from the fare struggle last year. And with the authority facing a well-publicized multibillion-dollar deficit, few people seem to think there is an alternative.

The increases, to be phased in beginning in January, are projected to raise $234 million next year. Under the proposal, the price of a 7-day MetroCard would rise to $24 from $21, and that of a 30-day card to $76 from $70. Fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad would rise about 5 percent and express bus fares would go to $5 from $4. Most bridge and tunnel tolls would increase by 25 or 50 cents.

The loudest critics of the increase have been elected officials. These include Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is running for re-election next year and whose four appointees to the board voted against the fare increase at yesterday's meeting of the transit committee of the authority.

The mayor's appointees have only those four of the 14 votes on the board, and riders' advocates have complained that the mayor in particular has not taken more action than he has to prevent the increase.

Neysa C. Pranger, an organizer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider organization that opposes the fare increase but favors restoration of state and city transit subsidies to previous levels, called the nay votes "an empty political gesture if it's not backed up with a real conversation with the governor with real ideas and real plans."

Mr. Bloomberg has conceded that he has yet to even speak to Gov. George E. Pataki, the elected official with the most power over the authority, about the proposed increase. Nor has Mr. Bloomberg offered to restore any of the hundreds of millions in city subsidies to the authority that were withdrawn under the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations.

Yesterday a protest outside the governor's Midtown office drew support from several mayoral hopefuls including Gifford Miller, the City Council speaker, and Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn.

"We aren't paying a higher fare. I don't care what the M.T.A. does," Mr. Barron shouted over a chorus of approving honks from bus drivers heading up Third Avenue just behind him. "A fare hike is a tax on the poor, and we are not accepting it."

The protest drew about 125 people, most of them from the coalition of rider advocates and union workers who are trying to stop the increase. Mr. Pataki had no official reaction to the protest, but he said earlier yesterday that while he opposed fare increases, he was not going to tell his appointees to vote against them.

The coalition has distributed more than 60,000 leaflets asking riders to call Mr. Pataki's office and has collected 1,500 signatures on an online petition.

But even the most fervent opponents of the fare raise concede that it is all but certain. "We don't have any illusions that we'll meet with success," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an group representing riders, bicyclists and pedestrians that is part of the coalition.

One observer of transit politics, Robert E. Paaswell, said many people were "just sort of worn out" from the last fare fight.

"They've come to expect that not only the M.T.A., but government in general, is just not going to respond to civic needs," said Professor Paaswell, a civil engineer who directs the Urban Transportation Research Center at City College of New York.

More than a dozen riders interviewed this week were either only vaguely aware of the imminent fare increase or resigned to it.

Steve Joblin, 53, a construction worker who takes the Long Island Rail Road daily from his home in New Hyde Park, said his neighbors and co-workers viewed the board's decision as a certainty. "It's not a topic of conversation anymore," he said. "We just assume they are going to do it."

Raising the price of unlimited-use fare cards, which are used by only about half of subway and bus riders, makes the economic effects on city residents harder to discern, said Steven M. Polan, who was the transportation authority's general counsel from 1984 until 1990, when the MetroCard was being planned.

"Part of the conscious strategy of that whole program - as a collateral benefit, not the primary benefit - was to get the focus away from the price of a single ride," Mr. Polan said.

Johanna Jainchill contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 16th, 2004, 01:18 AM
December 16, 2004

State's Transit Network Deteriorating, Panel Says


On the eve of a vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to raise fares for the second time in less than two years, a state panel warned yesterday that New York State's transportation infrastructure had begun to deteriorate and would need billions of dollars in public investment in the next five years.

In a report titled "Transportation - Trouble Ahead," the panel warned that New York would lose jobs and see its economy falter if it did not put "substantial, sustainable and predictable funding" into its highways, bridges, rail network, ports, airports and mass-transit systems, of which New York City's is by far the largest.

The report and its timing could be important matters for Gov. George E. Pataki, who holds the most sway over the authority and has been criticized for not offering new funds to close the substantial deficit in its proposed capital budget. Under Mr. Pataki and his predecessor, Mario M. Cuomo, the state cut subsidies for the authority's construction programs.

Mr. Pataki's transportation commissioner, Joseph H. Boardman, named the 12 members of the New York State Advisory Panel on Transportation Policy for 2025 in June. Over three months, they held nine public hearings throughout the state.

While their report avoided direct criticism of the governor, it pointedly cited the vision of two of his predecessors: DeWitt Clinton, who championed the construction of the Erie Canal in the 1820's, and Thomas E. Dewey, who supported the creation of the New York State Thruway in the 1950's.

"It is essential that the state take bold and decisive action to ensure that the infrastructure of the Empire State does not slip back to the deplorable conditions of the 1980's," the panel wrote.

In interviews, panel members said they were struck by the severity of unmet needs for improvements in highways, roads and rail and bus systems. "We tried to avoid placing blame, but clearly the Legislature and the governor are part and parcel of the problem," said one member, James J. McGowan, president of AAA New York State, a federation of seven automobile clubs. "If adequate appropriations had been made, the problem that the report addresses wouldn't even exist, in both rail and road infrastructure."

Another member, Dennis J. Fitzgerald, said the report was a call to action. "Virtually all of the panel members felt very strongly that this was not the time to produce a lukewarm report and that we should be ringing an alarm bell, basically," said Mr. Fitzgerald, a former executive director of the transit agency in Albany.

"I don't think there's any blame to be placed right now, but if nothing is done, there will be plenty of blame to go around."

The Legislature and Mr. Pataki "certainly haven't shown the kind of leadership that is demanded," said a third panel member, James T. B. Tripp, a lawyer for Environmental Defense, an advocacy group. He added that advocates had not articulated the need for new funds for transportation projects as clearly as they should have.

At a news conference yesterday, Mr. Pataki was noncommittal. He said he would examine not only the authority's proposed operating budget but also its plans for construction. He added: "We're also going to be looking at proposals from our Department of Transportation, from our other transportation entities, as to how we can do that. We will just have to look to see what we have the capacity to do, and what we're able to commit to."

In a statement, Mr. Boardman noted that a federal transportation bill that provided much of the state's highway spending was more than a year overdue. "The state's dedicated transportation fund needs replenishment now," he said, adding that new funds would not be easy to obtain. "Crafting new transportation investment programs under these conditions presents an enormous challenge to the state's decision makers."

Mark Hansen, a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, said the Senate "recognizes that maintaining and upgrading our transportation infrastructure is critically important," but noted that voters rejected a $3.8 billion transportation bond issue in 2000. A spokesman for the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said his staff had not seen the report but would review it.

The report described the growing stress on the state's transportation systems. Free-trade agreements and the growth of same-day delivery services have prompted an explosion in truck traffic. Subway ridership in New York City has steadily increased since 1992 - spurred by the reconstruction or replacement of the system's cars, tracks and stations - and the system has become overburdened.

Both the size and frequency of pavement cracks on state roads are increasing, according to the report. It cited a study last year by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which found that 37 percent of the state's bridges were deficient or obsolete and that New York drivers spent $2.3 billion a year on extra vehicle repairs and operating expenses due to unsound roads.

Meanwhile, spending on debt service to pay off bonds for past capital projects has soared, curtailing the amount of money available for current upkeep and new expansion projects.

The panel found that the state's transportation system was fragmented, comprising 12 public authorities, Mr. Boardman's department, local highway departments, four major private railroads and 32 short-line railroads, among other entities.

"No one is truly in charge of the system as a whole," the report stated.

Among other recommendations, the report called for improving downstate freight-rail service east of the Hudson River and increasing highway tolls to manage congestion and generate revenue. The full report can be found online at www.utrc2.org .

Michael Cooper contributed reporting from Albany for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
December 16th, 2004, 02:15 PM
The whole state's in debt. What is there that can be done?

December 16th, 2004, 11:47 PM
December 17, 2004

Transit Agency Votes to Raise Rail and Bus Fares in 2005


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a plan for fare increases and service changes yesterday that will raise the price of a monthly fare card by $6, to $76, early next year, increase suburban rail fares an average of 5 percent and close 164 station booths throughout the subway system.

The vote, coming just 19 months after the last fare increase, is expected to raise $234 million next year, but board members glumly conceded that their action would not solve the authority's grave fiscal problems, which include rising debt service, looming operating deficits and a five-year, $17 billion capital plan that no one has agreed to pay for. Most of the changes will take effect in early March.

Without debate or comment, the authority's board voted to raise the price of a 30-day MetroCard from $70, a 9 percent increase, and that of a weekly card to $24 from $21, a 14 percent increase. The base fare for single rides on subways and local buses, which rose to $2 from $1.50 last year, is unchanged, and riders will still be able to buy six rides for $10, which will be the most economical purchase for a commuter who uses the transit system just 10 times a week.

Fares on interborough express buses were raised to $5 from $4, a 25 percent increase. Fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad were raised up to 15 percent, but commuters will see a 5 percent increase on average. Tolls on the agency's bridges and tunnels were increased by 25 or 50 cents.

The vote, at the end of the subway system's centennial year, could begin a new era of fare increases that are both more frequent and more incremental.

From the subway's inception in 1904, the fare was tied to the price of a token, which was gradually replaced by the MetroCard starting in 1994. One result of that change has been a far more complex fare structure, with unlimited-use fare cards good for one, 7 and 30 days and discounts on regular-card purchases of $10 or more.

The authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, said he anticipated future increases every four years beginning in 2007, with "minor adjustments" in selected fares and tolls every two years.

The authority's average revenue for each subway or local bus ride, officials said, will rise only to $1.33 from $1.27 - still lower than the average fare of $1.38 in 1996, before use of the MetroCard became prevalent.

Such arguments were unpersuasive to the 29 speakers - among them a state senator, an assemblywoman and two City Council members - who stood before a lectern in a crowded meeting room at the authority's Midtown headquarters to register their opinions before the vote. Some used props, including a train whistle and a cellphone, while others carried signs denouncing Gov. George E. Pataki, the official with the most influence over the authority.

"It takes a lot of chutzpah to do what you are doing," said Adele Bender, an advocate for elderly Queens residents at the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, while waving a finger at the board. A rider advocate and former board member, Beverly L. Dolinsky, told the board members that their actions were inadequate and misguided.

"What you are doing is trying to fill a gaping chasm with a grain of sand," said Ms. Dolinsky, the executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the authority. "You cannot raise fares enough or cut service enough to even begin to address future deficits or meet future capital investment needs."

She called for a restoration of state and city transit subsidies that have been sharply reduced over the last decade. "The governor and mayor know very well that operating this system with inadequate state and local support in the past has put the M.T.A. in its current financial straits," she said.

Andy Newman and Janon Fisher contributed reporting for this article.

Graphic: A More Expensive Ride (http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2004/12/16/nyregion/16mta_graph1.gif)

Your Best Deal Per Ride? Better Get Out a Calculator


So they raised the subway and bus fares again. How does that affect you, beleaguered straphanger?

It depends.

First of all, here is what will not change. The base fare - that is, the cost of a ride if you buy your rides one at a time - will remain at $2.

The popular "volume discount," in which for every $10 you put on your regular MetroCard you get six rides instead of five, will not change. This yields an effective fare of $1.67 on what are known as "pay-per-ride" MetroCards. That is still the price to beat when considering whether to buy an unlimited-ride card.

Transfers will still be free. The one-day unlimited-ride card will still cost $7.

Here is what's changing. Right now, the seven-day unlimited-ride MetroCard costs $21. Around the beginning of March, the price will go up to $24.

At the same time, the 30-day unlimited-ride card, which now costs $70, will go up to $76.

How does that play out? Let's start with the 30-day card. A typical 30-day period has 21 workdays (assuming five legal holidays a year). So if you use mass transit only to commute to work, you're taking 42 rides every 30 days. At $76 for a 30-day card, that works out to $1.81 per ride, so you'd be better off with a pay-per-ride card.

If, however, you're pretty sure that you will take at least four extra rides (or two round trips) a month, the 30-day card is the better deal. At 46 rides per 30 days, it works out to $1.65 per ride. If you make a round trip seven days a week, you're paying $1.27 per ride.

(If you're considering stocking up on cards before the price goes up, by the way, you might get burned. Transit officials say the lower-price cards will be honored for only a few months after the increase takes effect.)

Now let's turn to the seven-day card. Right now, at $21, the seven-day card is a better deal than the pay-per-ride card if you take a round trip seven days a week. That will no longer be true. At the $24 fare, you'll have to take 15 rides a week (or 7½ round trips) for the seven-day card to be a good deal. At that level, you'd be paying $1.60 a ride

Here's the bottom line: You should invest in a 30-day card only if you're pretty sure you'll be using it for more than just commuting five days a week.

If you can predict your transit use only a week in advance, you should buy a seven-day card only if you will use it more than 14 times.

Enjoy your ride.


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 17th, 2004, 10:47 AM
Executive Director, President, President, President, President - Nope - not too top heavy there. If that's how it is at the top you can imagine the bloated carcass it is attached to.

December 19th, 2004, 06:08 AM
December 19, 2004


Tunnel Vision


THE much-discussed fare increases and service cuts for mass transit are meant to ease the pressures on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's daily operating budget. But attention must be paid as well to another budget at the M.T.A. - the $27.7 billion, five-year capital plan. This budget has a gaping hole of $16 billion, money needed for buying subway trains and buses, repairing stations and constructing new lines like the Second Avenue subway.

Finding a way to pay for this enormous but crucial investment in our transportation system is the key to resolving the agency's long-term fiscal problems.

If the M.T.A. keeps doing what it's been doing - borrowing the money itself for these capital improvements by issuing bonds whose principal and interest payments come out of the operating budget - the shortfall in its operating budget will continue to grow substantially.

The agency can rely on outside assistance - mostly federal transportation grants - for less than one-third of the money needed for the maintenance and repair portion of its capital plan. And half the financing (at most) for the expansion portion will come from federal and city subsidies. The rest the M.T.A. has to generate itself.

That's a problem, because debt service - the principal and interest paid to those who invest in M.T.A. bonds - is already the fastest growing part of the authority's expenditures: it is projected to rise from 12 percent of operating expenses in 2004 to 20 percent by 2008. The authority already issues nearly $2 billion in debt a year. And the fares, tolls and taxes that pay for the M.T.A.'s operating costs are not keeping pace.

To get out of this fix, the agency must either slow the growth rate of its debt service by canceling or delaying its capital projects, or find a way to pay its escalating borrowing costs. Choosing the latter will mean that total M.T.A. operating expenses will continue to grow by at least 5 percent annually for the foreseeable future; meeting this expense will be possible only if there are regular tax increases, regular fare increases, entirely new revenue sources, or (most likely) all of the above.

But there is a third way - one that slows the growth rate of the M.T.A.'s debt service without cutting back capital projects.

The idea would be to reduce the need for new debt by dedicating any new revenue sources to help finance the capital program on a pay-as-you-go basis. A realistic target might be to finance on this basis half of the "normal replacement" needs of the system - about $1 billion annually.

In a recent report, the Independent Budget Office identified two possible new revenue sources for the M.T.A.: tolls on the city bridges and the reinstatement of a commuter tax like the one eliminated by the Legislature in 1999. We estimate that bridge tolls could generate more than $400 million annually after deducting bridge-maintenance and collection expenses. Reinstating the commuter tax - essentially an income tax levied on those who work, but do not live, in the city - would raise $443 million in 2005 and about $550 million annually by 2008. (A tax at the same rate on all residents of the M.T.A. service region, including New York City residents, would yield more than $1 billion annually.)

Other groups, like the Regional Plan Association, have proposed similar and other fees and taxes. The association estimates that a 10-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax in the M.T.A.'s operating region would garner $300 million annually. Increasing driver's license fees to $50 annually would raise $290 million every year.

Why is it fair to ask people who might not ride the M.T.A.'s subways, buses and trains to help pay for mass transit? Because passengers are not the only ones who benefit from a robust, reliable transit system. Drivers also benefit from the reduced traffic that is a byproduct of a good mass-transit system. Businesses benefit from increased regional mobility. And all of us benefit from decreased air pollution when commuters use mass transit instead of cars.

There is no magic formula for determining how to apportion these costs, but it is important to recognize how widespread the benefits are and how vital mass transit is to a healthy regional economy and quality of life.

Gov. George E. Pataki, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other political leaders have so far rejected these fee- and tax-based measures. And they have not yet proposed any alternatives.

The M.T.A. does not have the power to tax. Only the state can raise fees and taxes - and raising them to support our region's mass-transit system is a political decision that requires political leadership.

We cannot continue to pretend that the burden of financing the M.T.A.'s daily operations and long-term capital programs are somehow the exclusive responsibility of the agency itself. It is not. The impetus for a solution must ultimately come from Albany and from City Hall.

Preston Niblack is a deputy director of the New York City Independent Budget Office.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 20th, 2004, 01:25 AM
December 20, 2004

Report Sees Rail Expansion as Crucial for Manhattan


Job growth in the New York metropolitan region will stagnate without a major expansion of commuter rail and subway access to Midtown and Lower Manhattan over the next 20 years, according to a report to be released by New York University today.

The study calls for construction on a magnitude not seen in nearly a half-century. The rail and traffic configuration that links Manhattan with other boroughs and the suburbs has not changed substantially since the third tube of the Lincoln Tunnel opened in 1957.

"Expanded transportation capacity is of vital importance to enable future economic and employment growth in the Manhattan central business district," according to the report, prepared by the university's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.

The report argues that four rail projects could relieve the crowding that has already begun to discourage riders from using subways and commuter railroads.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced its support for two of the projects: the development of a Second Avenue subway and a Long Island Rail Road connection to Grand Central Terminal. The authority's plans for expansion, however, have been greeted by silence in Albany.

The report recommends that new rail tunnels be dug under the Hudson River to Pennsylvania Station and under the East River to Lower Manhattan. The total cost of the four projects could be as high as $32.6 billion, the report states.

"We've gone through 40 years where we've really forgotten about the significance of building new capacity," said Rosemary Scanlon, an author of the report. (The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, was completed in 1964.) "All of the major cities in the world seem able to grab hold of what they need to expand and grow. We seem to be myopic about it."

Ms. Scanlon, a former state deputy comptroller for New York City and a former chief economist for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said there had been not been major investment in the region's transportation infrastructure since Gov. Hugh L. Carey initiated financing for a general revitalization of the subway system. Since 1982, Mr. Carey's last year in office, the authority has spent $40 billion on restoration and maintenance of its transit network.

The other author of the report, Edward S. Seeley Jr., said that New York has been unique among American cities in the resilience of its downtown core.

"We've had suburbanization in the region, as in all regions, but during the same time, the relative strength of Manhattan as an employment center and as a generator of personal income has grown," said Mr. Seeley, who retired in 1997 after a career at the Port Authority and the city government. "It's become more dominant. This is not a centrifugal region like Los Angeles."

Employment in the central business district, defined as all of Manhattan below 60th Street, is expected to increase an average of 0.8 percent a year, according to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, a government-sponsored planning forum that includes city and state agencies, along with officials from five suburban counties.

Assuming growth of only 0.6 percent a year, Ms. Scanlon and Mr. Seeley found, the business district would have 2.3 million jobs in 2025, 285,000 more than it did last year. Those workers would make 560,000 rush-hour work trips a day, an increase of 69,000 from last year.

The increase would amount to 51 additional subway trains - each with a full 1,400-passenger load - entering Manhattan each day.

Because the report calls for increased rail access, and not vehicular traffic, its recommendations are unlikely to be controversial among neighborhood advocates and environmentalists concerned about preservation of public space. But its call for major public investment - at a time when the state faces rising education, health care and pension costs - may be unrealistic.

"We have to ask ourselves what's the price if we don't do these projects," said Elliot G. Sander, the director of the Rudin Center and a former city transportation commissioner. "New York risks the possibility of having a real ceiling on the economic growth of the financial capital of the country."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 21st, 2004, 11:41 PM
December 22, 2004

Transit Chief Says Repairs Have Priority Over Expansion


Peter S. Kalikow, chairman of the transportation authority.

The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said yesterday that he would be willing to jettison ambitious expansion projects, like the Second Avenue subway, if doing so was necessary to save a $17.2 billion plan to keep the existing transit system running in good repair.

The chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, said he hoped that state legislators and Gov. George E. Pataki would realize the need to maintain the current system as well as to pay for expansion projects, including the new subway line and a link between the Long Island Rail Road and Grand Central Terminal, but acknowledged that achieving both goals may be impossible.

In an interview his staff arranged with reporters at the authority's headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, Mr. Kalikow made clear that his top priority is the authority's five-year core capital program to keep the city's subways, buses and commuter railroads in good condition, particularly if state leaders refuse to raise taxes and fees to support the authority.

"I'm O.K. with that, $17 billion for the state of good repair," Mr. Kalikow said. "I'll accept that. I think they're wrong. I think it's foolhardy and shortsighted, but I would accept that."

Mr. Kalikow also said that if the state government did not act by early March, $4 billion in federal support for the Second Avenue subway and Long Island Rail Road projects would be jeopardized.

While Governor Pataki was on vacation and not available for comment, a spokeswoman, Lynn Rasic, repeated his opposition to raising taxes. "The governor is an ardent opponent of tax increases and would like to explore other ways of meeting the M.T.A.'s capital needs," said Ms. Rasic, declining to discuss what those other ways may be.

The comments by Mr. Kalikow, the chairman since 2001, were a striking acknowledgment of the political realities facing the authority, which is asking Albany for new revenues to fill a $16 billion gap in the authority's next capital plan, totaling $27.7 billion. They also reflected a new level of urgency from the chairman, who has been pressing for more state help for the system, toward the governor, who controls the authority and appointed Mr. Kalikow.

Mr. Pataki has declared his support for various capital plans, including a rail link connecting Kennedy International Airport to Lower Manhattan, but neither the governor nor the leaders of the Legislature have gone along with a package of tax increases that Mr. Kalikow proposed. The proposed expansion projects account for about $10 billion in the capital plan. The core capital program would pay for new subway and railroad cars, station maintenance and rehabilitation and other continuing improvements.

Mr. Kalikow's comments were the latest twist in the tortured history of the Second Avenue subway, a dream of urban planners ever since the same avenue's elevated line was demolished in 1942. Construction on the line was abandoned during the city's financial crisis in the mid-1970's.

To pay for the authority's capital needs, Mr. Kalikow has proposed tax increases that would provide the authority with about $850 million a year, enough to pay annual debt service on new bonds that would be issued to fill the capital financing gap. But those business, real estate, motor vehicle and fuel taxes could be increased only with authorization from the state.

The authority's current five-year capital plan expires next week, on Dec. 31. The proposed plan for 2005 to 2009 is now before the Capital Program Review Board, which includes representatives of the governor, the leaders of the two chambers of the Legislature and the mayor of New York City.

Mr. Kalikow has warned that the next year could be similar to 1975, when a financial crisis forced the authority to halt spending on basic maintenance. The system hit its nadir in the winter of 1980-81, when subway service was crippled by widespread equipment failures.

"If we don't have the full $17 billion core program, you can write down, '2005 is the day the system reached its zenith, and is now starting its descent,' " Mr. Kalikow said.

The person given the most credit for the system's recovery is Richard Ravitch, the authority's chairman from 1979 to 1983, who persuaded Gov. Hugh L. Carey and state lawmakers to pay for a general revitalization of the system.

"Everybody in government in the early 80's had lived through the 70's and knew how really bad it was," Mr. Kalikow recalled. "Our problem is that there's a whole generation of New Yorkers that has now grown up and used the system that don't remember when it was horrible."

He said that increasing taxes, as the state faces major increases in education and health care spending, would require political will. "We need to remember that the leaders we have today are no less able, are no less bright, are no less visionary," Mr. Kalikow said. "We need to get them to say, 'Not only do we think it needs to be done, but if there's political capital to be expended, we're willing to expend it.' "

The authority's board approved a package of fare and toll increases last week, but that measure affects only the system's operating budget, which is projected to run large deficits starting in 2006. The authority has mounting debt obligations because of a wave of borrowing for capital projects from the 1990's, when the state and city all but eliminated their contributions to the capital budget. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's four representatives on the board voted against the increases.

Mr. Kalikow suggested that he was frustrated when Mr. Pataki and the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, said they were unwilling to raise taxes to pay for the authority's capital program. "I was disappointed, but not surprised," Mr. Kalikow said, "because I know the governor pretty well and I know his abhorrence of taxes."

Mr. Kalikow said he and the authority's executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, had been meeting with business leaders to explain the importance of the transit network to the regional economy. "The system is very delicate, and if we don't support it with these capital plans, it will deteriorate, and it will deteriorate very quickly," he said. "A result of deterioration is rider falloff, and rider falloff in a city of this economic vibrancy will cause havoc on the streets."

Robert D. Yaro, the president of the Regional Plan Association, an urban planning group that supports expansion of the region's transportation network, said he was struck by the forcefulness of Mr. Kalikow's remarks about the mass transit system's needs. "This is a cri de coeur from Peter," Mr. Yaro said. "He came forward with a very bold financing strategy, and he hasn't heard a response from Albany, which isn't atypical."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 22nd, 2004, 11:45 PM
December 23, 2004

State Review Board Rejects M.T.A.'s 5-Year Spending Plan


A state panel formally rejected the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's capital plan for the next five years yesterday, in another sign of the uphill battle the agency faces in persuading Albany to pay for expansion projects like a Second Avenue subway.

The decision was not surprising because the state government has barely begun to discuss how to pay for the five-year plan, which calls for $27.7 billion for system upkeep and for expansion projects, including a Second Avenue subway line and a connection between Grand Central Terminal and the Long Island Rail Road.

The decision, however, means that the authority will end the year without a road map for maintenance and construction projects from 2005 through 2009. The current five-year plan expires next week, on Dec. 31, although many elements, like equipment purchases and repair work, have not been completed and will continue as usual.

In a letter to the state transportation commissioner, Assemblywoman Catherine T. Nolan wrote that she was vetoing the plan pending a "full and formal review" of capital plans for both the authority and the state's highways and bridges.

"Since the state will face many tough fiscal decisions in the coming months, it is prudent to make those tough decisions only after reviewing the state spending plans as a whole and conducting budget hearings on proposed spending," she wrote.

The authority's capital plan requires unanimous agreement from the four members of the panel, the Capital Program Review Board. If none of its members had registered a veto by the end of the year, the new plan, which was submitted on Sept. 29, would have been deemed approved.

Ms. Nolan, a Queens Democrat who represents the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, on the panel, said it would have been irresponsible to approve the plan without a way to pay for it.

But she praised the authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, for speaking out about the need to both maintain and expand the transit system.

"The public action that Peter Kalikow is taking - to drum up support for funding sources and put pressure on the governor and the Legislature - is very much what we need," Ms. Nolan said. "But we're not there yet, and there's no funding plan in place. That will be, I'm sure, our top priority in the next legislative session."

Another lawmaker on the panel said he, too, would have rejected the plan, although for different reasons.

"If she hadn't vetoed it, I know I would have vetoed it," said Senator Dean G. Skelos, a Nassau County Republican who represents the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, on the panel.

"There's a bipartisan recognition that the M.T.A. has to prioritize their projects and discuss the priority of projects with the Legislature before we'll agree to a plan that is unfunded," Mr. Skelos said.

Mr. Skelos said his priority among the proposed expansion projects would be a connection between Grand Central Terminal and the Long Island Rail Road. But he said the authority had not adequately communicated the need for the various projects.

"It was presented, really, without any discussion with the Legislature," he said. "It was almost a take-it-or-leave-it approach. That's unfortunate."

The other panel members are the transportation commissioner, Joseph H. Boardman, who represents Gov. George E. Pataki, and the city's deputy mayor for operations, Marc V. Shaw, who represents Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

A spokesman for the authority, Tom Kelly, said officials would submit a new capital plan to the review board. Mr. Kelly said he did not know when that would happen or what changes might be made.

Mr. Kelly added that he disagreed with Mr. Skelos's criticism. "The priority is keeping the system in a state of good repair, which I believe is articulated in the capital plan," Mr. Kelly said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 25th, 2004, 03:26 AM
December 25, 2004

Half a Loaf on Transportation

New York City's subway system has fallen victim in the past to a political law of nature: elected officials love new building projects but find it hard to get excited about routine maintenance. This week, Peter Kalikow, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, decided to force the state and city to get their priorities right. He warned that the authority's money woes were so great - with a shortfall of $16 billion in its five-year $27.7 billion rebuilding program - that he was willing to jettison the ambitious transit plans of the governor, mayor and Assembly speaker in favor of maintaining safe and reliable transportation for the public.

Mr. Kalikow is the appointee of Gov. George Pataki, who has been systematically withdrawing state support for mass transit, just as Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg cut back on city support. When financial trouble inevitably followed, elected officials mainly contented themselves with denouncing fare hikes. The governor vetoed Mr. Kalikow's plan to raise $900 million by increasing some state business, real estate and fuel taxes.

As much as we believe the subway system needs expansion and would hate to lose the billions in federal subsidies available for new projects like the link between the Long Island Rail Road and Grand Central Terminal, it is clear that Mr. Kalikow has taken the wisest course. Even the $17 billion needed to keep the current system in good repair will be hard to come by. The priority for transportation must be avoiding a slide back to the mess that existed in the late 1970's to early 80's, when financial problems brought it to the edge of dysfunction.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 25th, 2004, 09:02 AM
I will not disagree with those who say the MTA needs to be more cost-efficient. That being said, I see the root problem with the MTA's finances is that fares are absurdly low. Given a choice between a $2.50 fare and crummy, filthy service, or a $5.00 fare and clean, efficient service, I'll gladly take the latter. What we need are leaders with the guts to put the issue in such clear terms.

And yes, even at $5 a pop, the fare would still be one of the greatest bargains on Planet Earth.

TLOZ Link5
December 25th, 2004, 02:01 PM
Once again, the Second Avenue Subway, the elusive carrot that's been dangling in front of our noses since the 1970s, has been yanked away.

Just give a private contract to someone to build a light rail line and be done with it.

December 26th, 2004, 11:02 PM
I got Spiderman 2 for Christmas, I wanted it becuase of where it takes place. :lol: But while watching it, I noticed several things wrong. Buildings wernt in their right places, and the subway was elevated in what looked like Midtown. Is the subway elevated at all in manhattan? And if it is is that where they are in the movie? (For those who've seen it)

TLOZ Link5
December 26th, 2004, 11:13 PM
There are now very few elevated railroads in Manhattan itself. Most are north of 96th Street, particularly the Metro-North viaduct over Park Avenue and stretches of the 1-9 in Harlem and Inwood.

The movie shows a fictional elevated line that passes through the Financial District and terminates at the eastern end of Wall Street. The rollsigns on the train say "Bay Ridge," a Brooklyn neighborhood which is served by the R-train.

December 26th, 2004, 11:21 PM
Thanks for clearing that up! :) I was like "Whoa now, that's not there!"

January 10th, 2005, 11:51 PM
January 11, 2005

Because of Heavy Use of Discount Fares, M.T.A. Raised Less Than Expected in 2003


WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 - New York straphangers know a deal when they see one.

Since May 2003, when subway and bus fares were increased for the first time since 1995, to the end of that year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority raised $6 million to $20 million less than officials had expected before the increase took effect, according to data released on Monday at a transportation conference here.

Fare revenue fell below predictions, the analysis found, because riders altered their buying habits more quickly and in bigger numbers than expected.

The 2003 fare increase was the first since free subway-to-bus transfers, bulk-purchase discounts and unlimited-ride fare cards were introduced in rapid succession from 1997 to 1999, transforming the way riders calculate the cost of travel around New York City.

The analysis is the first detailed examination of how the 2003 fare increase affected ridership and revenues for the authority, whose board last month approved another fare increase, to take effect by early March. The price of a monthly pass will rise to $76 and the weekly pass will increase to $24, but the base fare will remain $2.

Under the 2003 increase, the base fare rose 33 percent, to $2, from $1.50. According to the new analysis, riders responded by shifting toward buying MetroCards with volume discounts, which now account for 32 percent of fares, up from 24.7 percent before the increase.

In addition, the 30-day pass soared in popularity, even though its price increased 11 percent, to $70 from $63. It now accounts for 20 percent of fares, up from 14.3 percent.

The price of a one-day Fun Pass rose by 75 percent, to $7 from $4, and sales plummeted. It now accounts for 1.7 percent of all fares, down from 6 percent.

Because of the shifts in buying patterns, the average fare revenue for each subway or bus ride increased from $1.04 in 2002 only to $1.26, slightly less than the $1.30 that officials had hoped for.

The good news, for the authority, was that subway ridership declined by less than 1 percent, compared with an expected 2.9 percent decrease. Bus ridership fell 4 to 5 percent, less than the 6.5 percent expected. Daily ridership, each weekday, is 4.5 million passengers on the subways and 3 million on buses.

"It's said that New Yorkers love a bargain and, true to form, our customers took the greatest bargain available," said Robert L. Hickey, the manager of fare structure analysis for New York City Transit, the transportation authority subsidiary that operates the subway and bus system

Mr. Hickey presented his findings at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council, which advises the federal government on scientific and engineering matters.

To project the impact of the 2003 increase, New York City Transit officials used mathematical models developed by the metropolitan transit agencies in Atlanta and Philadelphia, Mr. Hickey said. The models try to predict elasticity, the ridership loss after a fare increase, and diversion, the decision by riders to switch from one type of fare to another.

In July 1997, New York City Transit officials put in place free transfers between subways and buses. In January 1998, they introduced discounts on all regular MetroCard purchases of $15 or more. (The threshold for the discount has since been lowered to $10, and the size of the discount has grown to 20 percent from 10 percent.) In July 1998, they began selling 30-day and seven-day unlimited-ride passes, and in January 1999, the one-day Fun Pass.

The result is that transit fares have become much more complex. For a half-century, until it was phased out in 2003, the token represented one simple fare. Now there are seven types of fares: single-ride tickets, regular MetroCards, regular cards bought with a bulk-purchase discount, the three unlimited-ride passes and the seven-day express-bus pass, which is also valid on subways and local buses.

It might seem logical that budget-savvy riders would shift their purchases to relatively less expensive fare cards, but the extent and predictability of that shift are critical to officials at the authority, which is projecting large operating deficits starting in 2006 and asking Albany to pay for a $27.7 billion five-year capital program.

For example, the authority had projected $286 million in new revenue from May through December 2003 due to the fare increase. The new analysis shows that the authority, in fact, made $6 million to $20 million less than that, because of the changes in the patterns of fare purchases. (The exact amount is difficult to state precisely, Mr. Hickey said, because there are different methods used to calculate ridership changes.)

In a separate discussion at the conference, a lawyer for New York City Transit analyzed the litigation that followed the 2003 fare increase. The lawyer, Florence Dean, said the political climate surrounding the most recent hike was "quieter" than the one in 2003. "There is some recognition that mass transit is struggling, not just in New York but throughout the country," she said.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

January 12th, 2005, 03:29 AM
January 12, 2005

Transportation Authority Orders a Hiring Freeze With Expense Reductions


Facing looming deficits, the executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ordered an immediate hiring freeze yesterday on all jobs not directly related to daily operations and reductions in expenses like travel, office supplies and cellphones.

In a series of memos to the presidents of the authority's operating subsidies and other top officials, the executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, wrote that fiscal austerity was essential because the authority was projecting a $586 million deficit in its operating budget next year.

She added that the state had not funded the authority's five-year, $27.7 billion capital program, which includes $17.2 billion for maintenance, repairs and upgrades that officials consider essential to keep the subways, buses and commuter rails in working condition.

With support from its chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, the authority's board approved a fare increase last month for the second time in two years. The base fare will remain $2, a figure often described as sacrosanct.

Ms. Lapp appeared to echo that view yesterday, writing, "The chairman and the M.T.A. board members have made it abundantly clear that additional fare/toll increases and service reductions must be avoided at all costs to ensure that our customers are not unduly burdened."

In a telephone interview, Ms. Lapp compared her cost-cutting directive to asking, "Can I make the coffee at home instead of going to Starbucks?"

She added: "People are looking at purchases, small and large, and saying, 'Is it absolutely necessary? Do we need it, and if so, can we get it cheaper somewhere else? Is it central to the core mission of the M.T.A.?' "

The authority has 65,000 employees and an $8 billion annual operating budget.

Ms. Lapp declined to estimate how much the freeze and reductions would save. "We're not talking about hundreds of millions of dollars," she said, "because we're already close to the bone. But we need austerity and fiscal control measures to cut down on the few remaining areas where we don't need these expenses."

She said she had not considered layoffs, but added, "No stone will be left unturned trying to find savings."

In one memo, Ms. Lapp directed supervisors to "fill only those non-safety-related operational vacancies which are essential to the provision of reliable transportation service to our customers." The memo also instructed managers to review all promotion recommendations "to insure that the promotion is essential."

Another memo asked the authority's top officials to "reduce dramatically all non-personnel expenses," including travel for conferences; purchases of office supplies, equipment and furniture; expenses on advertising; and usage of cellphones and personal communication devices, like the BlackBerry. Ms. Lapp directed the officials to submit savings plans by Feb. 15 to her deputy executive director for administration, Linda G. Kleinbaum, who is to oversee the cost-cutting measures.

The memos were issued as several officials of New York City Transit, the Metro-North Railroad and other parts of the authority were in Washington for the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

One of the attendees, Christopher P. Boylan, gave a presentation yesterday on improvements since the 1980's. One measure of efficiency, Mr. Boylan said, is the number of employees per one million trips. That figure fell from 27.7 in 1995 to 21.9 in 2001 - an indication, he said, that the authority does more with less.

In an interview, Mr. Boylan, the authority's deputy executive director for corporate and community affairs, said he filled in for the scheduled speaker, Ms. Kleinbaum, who was ill.

Mr. Boylan said he was already in Washington to meet with members of Congress from New York State and with staff of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, so his attendance at the conference did not cost the authority any additional money.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
January 12th, 2005, 02:50 PM
Thanks for clearing that up! :) I was like "Whoa now, that's not there!"

It should also be noted, however, that much of that part of the movie was filmed in Chicago :wink:

January 12th, 2005, 03:19 PM
Really? :?

January 25th, 2005, 03:06 PM
I will not disagree with those who say the MTA needs to be more cost-efficient. That being said, I see the root problem with the MTA's finances is that fares are absurdly low. Given a choice between a $2.50 fare and crummy, filthy service, or a $5.00 fare and clean, efficient service, I'll gladly take the latter. What we need are leaders with the guts to put the issue in such clear terms.

And yes, even at $5 a pop, the fare would still be one of the greatest bargains on Planet Earth.Assuming for a moment that comparing the costs of different modes of transportation was valid, and a $5.00 fare was a bargain; the increase would not solve the problem, but only delay it.

The recent subway fire (http://forums.wirednewyork.com/viewtopic.php?t=4129) illustrates that the MTA is a bloated, incompetent organization, with too much of its budget diverted away from the end product.

The root of the problem is not revenue, but systemic mismanagement.

January 25th, 2005, 04:09 PM
Politics have been played with its financing for decades too long.

January 27th, 2005, 10:39 PM
January 28, 2005

M.T.A. Picks an Agent to Market Sponsorships


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed yesterday to name a sponsorship agent that will sell companies the rights to promote their brand on the subways, buses, commuter railroads, stations, bridges and tunnels.

The authority selected a joint venture of Civic Entertainment Group and Octagon Worldwide to provide businesses and individuals "with the opportunity to have their names and products associated with M.T.A.," according to the authority's real estate unit. The sponsorships could include, for example, an official soft drink or sandwich of the subways.

Perhaps more remarkable than the decision to approve the sponsorship program was the discussion that preceded it. The authority's board, hardly known as a deliberative body, rarely engages in debate. The panel is largely under the control of Gov. George E. Pataki.

Barry L. Feinstein, one of Mr. Pataki's representatives on the board, complained that the sponsorship arrangement was worked out by the board's planning and real estate committee and presented to the full board for only a rubber-stamp approval. "This is something that goes to the heart of what the board does or does not do," Mr. Feinstein said. "It should not come to us this way."

Andrew B. Albert, a board member who represents the New York City Transit Riders Council, said he worried about the excessive commercialization of public facilities and spaces.

The authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, tried to assuage those concerns. "We won't find at the next meeting that the 59th Street Station is now the Toyota Station," Mr. Kalikow said. "Rest assured, we won't have a Donald Trump Triborough Bridge."

In the wake of last month's decision to raise fares, said Mark D. Lebow, a representative of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on the authority's board, sponsorships will raise money so that "we can say to the State Legislature, the federal government and the fare-paying public that we have done our part."

Similar arrangements have existed in Dallas, Las Vegas and San Diego, officials said. The authority's real estate director, Roco Krsulic, said any sponsorship deals would be subject to existing advertising guidelines that bar obscene or inappropriate words and images.

Under the agreement, which is to last at least two years, the partnership will make a commission of up to 25 percent, based on how much revenue it generates.

The partnership was selected from among four finalists who were among seven groups that submitted proposals last summer.

Civic Entertainment Group's chief executives, Stuart Ruderfer and David N. Cohn, were marketing officials at the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

January 27th, 2005, 11:05 PM
I like this idea. Would you rather have dirty stations with no money to keep up basic cleaning, along with fare increases? I wouldnt, Ill take the signs and advertisements. Im glad they're doing this.

January 28th, 2005, 11:15 AM
I'm not glad they're doing it at all.

The amount of money these companies will pay to shill their brands is a drop in the MTA bucket. New Yorkers are bombarded with enough advertising already.

January 29th, 2005, 10:06 AM
January 29, 2005


Saving the Subways

Lawrence Reuter was not a New York household name before last week. And he probably wishes that were still so. Mr. Reuter, president of New York City Transit, had his unhappy moment in the spotlight when he told the city that because of a fire, two major subway lines, the A and the C, would be out of commission for three to five years. As almost anyone but Mr. Reuter could have predicted, that set off panic in the neighborhoods where hundreds of thousands of people use the lines to get to work. He has since clarified his estimate to a matter of months and, we hope, learned a lesson in the importance of accurate communication with his customers.

But there is a far larger and scarier issue facing the city's subways than public relations, and telling Mr. Reuter to fix it is useless. The problem must be placed squarely in the lap of the man with the power and the responsibility: Gov. George Pataki.

Years of underfinancing and borrowing have left the system on the threshold of a crisis bigger than anything since its nadir in the late 70's and early 80's. If the fire last week served any purpose, it was to remind the city how vulnerable its network of subways is to mishap or worse. The relay signals that burned and need replacing are Depression-era. Computerizing the whole system will be so costly and take so long that it seems more like a dream than a solution. The urgent challenge now is much more basic: to get the financing from Albany to save what we've got.

Like all too many things in New York, the regional mass transit system is organized in a way that makes it hard for the public to figure out who's really in charge. But it's a creation of the state, and run by officials answering to the governor. Mr. Pataki has always reduced his responsibility, although this year he did propose modest increases in vehicle fees and the mortgage recording tax to help pay the transit bills. It's simply not enough, particularly for a governor who denounces fare increases.

Pretending that service cuts and more efficiency will save the day, Mr. Pataki has lopped off more than $2 billion from the authority's already scaled-back five-year plan to maintain the system. Even with that penury, he leaves much of the plan without financing.

In the 1980's, when the system was teetering on ruin, the governor, the mayor and city business leaders all pitched in to create a rescue plan. That needs to happen again, beginning with a concerted effort that's coupled with the offer of sacrifice. Mayor Michael Bloomberg can't effectively demand money to rebuild the subways at a time when he's also pushing for $300 million in state funds and committing another $300 million in city funds for an unnecessary football stadium in Manhattan. Mr. Bloomberg should get his priorities straight. And as much as we agree with the mayor about the importance of extending subway service to the Far West Side of Manhattan to spur development, it's a plan that has to take a back seat to saving the existing network.

Business leaders should tell the governor what new taxes they would be willing to accept to save public transit. We like one idea being floated by the Partnership for New York City, which would build on London's model of imposing a surcharge on anyone driving into the city's business district. The plan could generate up to $390 million by taxing those who drive private vehicles below 60th Street during working hours.

Of course, the M.T.A. must help itself by cutting its administrative costs and holding down other expenses. Its idea of selling naming rights to subway stations sounds iffy, but worth exploring. None of this should detract from the obligation Mr. Pataki has to keep New York's economic engine running by protecting mass transit. The spotlight is on him, and he cannot hide from it.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

January 30th, 2005, 10:34 PM
January 30, 2005


Riding Into the Red


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/e.gifVER since last Sunday, when a fire, possibly set by a homeless person, disrupted service on the A and C subway lines, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been taking a lot of heat. Everyone's complaining. First, came the shock over how vulnerable the subway's signaling system is. Then there were the cries of disbelief at how long the repairs would take.

But what all these criticisms miss is the underlying financial predicament that has deprived New York's subway system of money needed for maintenance and improvements. And the situation is unlikely to improve with a Republican in Albany and another one in the White House.

For most of its 100-year history, the subway has experienced financial crises that have resulted in deferred maintenance and impaired passenger service. New York's first subway, which entered service in 1904, was financed by a public agency and leased and operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company. In 1913, a second firm, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (later Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit) signed a contract to run a subway system. But rising inflation after World War I caused both companies to teeter in and out of bankruptcy.

In 1932, the city started its own subway network, the Independent Subway System, to compete with the two private companies, which were widely detested for their poor service. In 1940, after the Great Depression had further devastated the subways, the City of New York unified the three networks into a single, municipally run system.

Unification did not end the subway's financial troubles, however, and in 1953, the state, looking to end ever-growing subsidies and eliminate direct municipal operation of the system, created the New York City Transit Authority. Determined to establish businesslike management of the subway system, the Transit Authority permitted fare increases and service reductions.

In the 1970's and 1980's, post-Vietnam inflation, along with competition from automobiles, created another financial crisis. From a peak of two billion riders in 1947, rapid transit ridership fell to less than one billion in the early 1990's. By then, the trains were mechanically unreliable, the stations dilapidated and the system crime-ridden. The economic boom at the end of the century with the accompanying rise in revenue that could go to the system helped, but with the slump after 9/11, the strains in the subway's financing became more apparent.

But it isn't just the economy; federal policy is at fault, too. Compared with every other major rapid transit line in the world, New York's subway receives surprisingly little aid from the national government. The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 initiated federal financing for the construction of subways and light rail systems. But because federal subsidies have promoted the construction of new lines rather than the rehabilitation of old ones, New York City has had to maintain its aging subway system largely by itself.

Since 1982, the Transit Authority (now an arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority) has used state-issued bonds to revitalize the subways by replacing or overhauling more than 6,000 cars, rehabilitating more than 140 stations and rebuilding main-line tracks. The signaling system needed attention, too, but money was limited and used for shiny new trains. The authority had hoped that more noticeable improvements would increase ridership and, thus, revenue, which would allow it to issue more bonds. But that didn't happen; ridership didn't rise as much as expected.

The only thing that is surprising about this crisis is that it surprises us. The subway's chronic financial problems have never been fixed, and its renewal is now imperiled by fiscal pressures facing a city government that has greater needs and yet commands fewer resources than before.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who rides the subways himself, has been trying to obtain more state money, but Albany has been of little help. Gov. George E. Pataki's newly proposed budget was a disappointment for the city, and the subway's financial pressures will be only increased by his administration's preferences for commuter lines that serve the suburbs where Republican voters live. And these financial pressures will not be relieved by the Bush administration, which makes selective use of its small-government rhetoric to justify its disdain for big cities with a majority of Democratic voters.

So for now, it all boils down to this: the New York subway system will be forced to chug along, and straphangers will have to deal with it, just as they have for the last century.

Clifton Hood, a history professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, is the author of "722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

January 31st, 2005, 06:32 AM
January 31, 2005


Secrecy Adds to Suspicions About M.T.A.


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/l.gifAST week, Katherine N. Lapp, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told Albany lawmakers that yes, the M.T.A. had received a long-awaited appraisal of the land where the Jets want to build a new stadium.

The M.T.A. owns the property on Manhattan's Far West Side, which means the public owns it, but Ms. Lapp said she could not give legislators a copy of the appraisal because it had to go to the authority's board members first. She also said that a copy had already been made available to the Jets, which will have to pay development rights.

Whereupon Richard L. Brodsky, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, said he would issue a subpoena, which he has.

There are two ways to look at this.

One way is to dismiss it as moot, since the outlines of the appraisal done for the authority, and another done for the Jets, have already trickled out to the press (see Charles V. Bagli's article on this page), and because Ms. Lapp and the authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, have said that they will make their financial study public when it goes to the board, as early as today or tomorrow.

But another way to look at it is to wonder why the authority fell back on secrecy, why it seems to be instinctive sometimes, even though associates of Mr. Kalikow say he is intent on avoiding even the appearance of favoritism toward the Jets.

"This is not the way government should function," said Mr. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat and likely candidate for attorney general next year. "At stake here is the whole question of out-of-control state authorities. The M.T.A. has improved under Kalikow and Lapp, but they had a relapse on this one."

Authorities have great leeway about what they make public and what they do not. That's one reason elected officials created authorities and commissions years ago - to give them cover. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. George E. Pataki don't sit on the authority's board; their appointees do. That affords them the opportunity both took advantage of last week: to say little about the fire that hobbled two subway lines while transit officials took the brickbats.

The very nature of authorities also lets them operate below the radar, as the State Thruway Authority did a few years ago when it granted a Buffalo developer exclusive rights to buy access to the Erie Canal for $30,000, a move later thwarted by the state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi.

With precedents like that, it was inevitable that the transportation authority would generate suspicion by withholding a financial analysis of obvious importance to the future of the mass transit system, and that is no exaggeration.

Why? Because in government, as in anatomy, the leg bone is connected to the knee bone, and the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, as the old song goes.

THE transportation authority needs more money to operate and to grow. But of the $27.7 billion it requested for the next five years - including $17.2 billion for essential maintenance - Mr. Pataki's proposed budget would provide only $19.2 billion. Of that, $15.2 billion would be for maintenance and upkeep, and only $2 billion for expansion - and transit advocates say that the source of most of that money is either unexplained or based on unrealistic assumptions.

The Second Avenue subway is again delayed, the city is financing a proposed extension of the No. 7 line to the Far West Side rather than leave it to the transportation authority, and fares are going up again. In this post-9/11 era, the authority cannot afford even to fireproof all its control rooms, despite New York City Transit's own recommendation six years ago that it do so, after a fire in Brooklyn.

Today, about 40 of the system's 200 signal control rooms have yet to be fireproofed - among them the relay room in the Chambers Street station that went up in flames a week ago, destroying the sensitive signaling equipment inside. Officials estimate that it will take up to nine months to get the C and A lines up and running, and three to five years to restore all their functions.

"It's shocking" said Gene Russianoff, a lawyer with the Straphangers Campaign. "The whole system needs constant fixing."

The authority obviously needs as much as it can get from the Jets for its property, for the subways, buses and trains and those who depend on them.

Nothing secret about that. Ask riders of the A and C lines.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

February 16th, 2005, 11:47 PM
February 17, 2005

State's Rescue of M.T.A. Is Less Certain This Time


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/f.giforty years ago this month, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller formally got New York into the mass transportation business after a group of diehard capitalists advised him that the state needed to step in to save the ailing Long Island Rail Road, which was then in private hands.

"This group of all private enterprise decided to call for socialization," William J. Ronan, the governor's secretary and the group's chairman, recalled the other day. "We recommended the only way to save the Long Island Rail Road was for the state to buy it."

Mr. Rockefeller boldly rescued the line with $65 million of the state's money and a hefty investment of personal political capital. He prodded the Legislature to create a Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority, whose five-member board was appointed solely by the governor. He later outwitted Robert Moses, the master planner, to win control of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority's toll revenues to subsidize regional mass transit.

Nearly two decades later, another governor, Hugh L. Carey, and the Legislature - galvanized this time by Richard Ravitch, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman - again rescued the system from systemic insufficient financing and decades of neglected repairs by enacting the first of several long-range capital plans.

Today, the system is once again at a crossroads - facing deficits and demands for basic maintenance, coupled with proposals for overdue expanded routes and services. And once again the governor and the Legislature are being pushed to put the system back on a steady course by increasing state aid or authorizing the taxes to keep the system in good working order and make sure it meets tomorrow's transit needs.

In December, Peter S. Kalikow, the transit authority chairman, bluntly warned that unless Gov. George E. Pataki and the Legislature increased real estate, motor vehicle and fuel taxes by $850 million a year, the agency could not afford both to maintain the system in reasonably good repair and to expand it by building a Second Avenue subway and a link between the Long Island Rail Road and Grand Central Terminal on the East Side - two of the goals Mr. Rockefeller promised 40 years ago.

Mr. Kalikow said he would be willing to forgo the expansion projects if that was necessary to win approval of a plan that would provide only the $17 billion needed to keep the system in good repair. "I think it's foolhardy and shortsighted, but I would accept that," he said.

Last month, Mr. Pataki proposed spending considerably less, did not specify where he would find much of the money and, in effect, ignored most of Mr. Kalikow's plea for expansion. Mr. Kalikow, a Pataki appointee, had not confronted the governor publicly before.

Now, he faces a test of their relationship and of his leadership: Can he persuade Albany to give mass transit more money instead of accepting what he has called a "foolhardy and shortsighted" decision?

In contrast to Mr. Carey or even to Mr. Rockefeller, Mr. Pataki is more fiscally conservative and, whether he is seeking re-election or harboring national ambitions, raising taxes statewide is unlikely to benefit him politically (which is why the Partnership for New York City, a business group, is advocating alternatives like sports betting or taxing autos in the Manhattan business district as ways to raise money for mass transit).

The transit authority was always, in part, about politics. It was born 40 years ago to insulate long-range decisions about transit from the vicissitudes of daily politics, and to spare politicians the consequences of those decisions.

Because Long Island voters were critical to Mr. Rockefeller's 1966 re-election campaign, he said that within two months the Long Island Rail Road would be providing "the finest service in the country." Rockefeller did not deliver, not in two months, anyway, but he scored points for his gumption in creating a regional authority that would be empowered to borrow money and to operate not only for the suburban commuter rail lines, but also for New York City's subways and buses.

"The whole ugly mess was put together under the M.T.A.," Dr. Ronan, its first chairman, recalled. "The governor controlled it. Later, unfortunately, they decided to increase the membership of the board and sort of diffused the authority."

Mr. Carey's successor, Mario M. Cuomo, proposed that the state operate mass transit directly and that the transit authority chairman serve at the governor's pleasure instead of having a six-year term, but he was thwarted by the Legislature. Mr. Ravitch warned at the time, though, that "a change in structure is not a change in substance" and said the substantive problem was, and is, "They don't have enough money."

Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, a coalition of transit advocates, agrees that problem is political, not structural. "Ravitch said the real problem was inadequate capital funding, which he helped repair," Mr. Russianoff said.

Robert D. Yaro, president of the nonpartisan Regional Plan Association, concurs. "To Pataki's credit," Mr. Yaro said, "he picked up on the expansion idea, but what it's run into is this just-cut-taxes dogma. The problem is also that Pataki put the last capital plan on a credit card, and now we're paying for it."

Mr. Pataki has endorsed legislation intended to promote greater efficiency and transparency in the agency. He, like Mr. Kalikow, says he has no complaints about the composition of the board, which includes the chairman and five other direct appointees of the governor, four recommended by the mayor, seven nominated by the region's county executives, and six nonvoting members representing riders and labor.

In December, Mr. Kalikow said, somewhat hopefully, "We need to remember that the leaders we have today are no less able, are no less bright, are no less visionary."

Asked this week why Mr. Ravitch succeeded where he so far has failed, Mr. Kalikow replied delicately, "I don't know," then added: "It's not over yet. I don't consider it a failure. I still think we're going to win."

Mr. Kalikow added, "I'm not dismissed out of hand anymore."

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February 22nd, 2005, 09:16 AM
Derailed (http://www.newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/news/features/11160/index.html)

February 25th, 2005, 09:02 AM
February 25, 2005

M.T.A. Chairman Fears Railyard Talks May Overshadow Budget Issues


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/t.gifhe intense focus by elected officials on the West Side railyards has threatened to overshadow the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's urgent need for a new five-year capital program, the authority's chairman said yesterday in an unusually strident plea for state aid.

The chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, expressed frustration over the lack of action in Albany, where Gov. George E. Pataki has proposed spending $2.5 billion less than the $17.2 billion minimum over five years that the authority insists it needs to keep subway, bus and commuter railroad service at existing levels.

The authority's board voted yesterday to hire a firm, Newmark & Company Real Estate, to evaluate competing bids for the air rights over the yards. The firm, based in Manhattan, will help the authority to choose among the bidders.

The Jets, who want to build a football stadium there, and the owners of Madison Square Garden are expected to make offers by the March 21 deadline. Others might enter the auction as well. The board is expected to choose among those offers on March 31.

But Mr. Kalikow made it clear that he considered the entire issue tangential to his main purpose.

"If 5 percent of the energy that we spent on the stadium in the last month had been directed toward the capital program, which is much more critical to our operation, we would have that program today," he said after the board's monthly meeting. "I wish we could make that clear to everybody who lives and works in this region: the capital program is the most critical thing we work on."

Mr. Kalikow said the proposed stadium championed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had become a distraction that now occupied "probably 60 percent of my time," if not more.

"I'm serious that all the time that I waste doing this is time that's diverted from the main mission, which is getting the capital program in place," he said. "Nobody's willing to focus on the capital plan until the stadium is resolved. That's my problem. It's a serious thing."

Mr. Kalikow, whom the governor appointed in 2001, added that elected officials had focused on the stadium proposal to the exclusion of the transit system's pressing needs.

"Half the hearings I'm summoned to, that's on everybody's mind," he said. "It's depressing - that's the word I'm looking for. It makes me sad that we can't focus on the stuff we have to focus on."

The authority's executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, outlined the areas most likely to be affected if the $17.2 billion core capital program was not approved.

In addition to deferring station maintenance and the installation of electronic information signs for bus and subway riders, the authority would delay buying new rail and subway cars, she said, noting that much of that "rolling stock" was manufactured in New York.

"From Poughkeepsie to Plattsburgh, Ronkonkoma to Tonawanda, we employ thousands of New Yorkers just by buying these cars and subways," she said.

In addition, she said, more than 1,000 employees of New York City Transit, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad are paid out of capital funds and those positions may have to be cut.

The warnings by Mr. Kalikow and Ms. Lapp came as the state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, issued a report criticizing the governor's proposed capital budget.

Under the governor's plan, Mr. Hevesi concluded, the authority could be forced to borrow an additional $9.7 billion to pay for its new capital program. By 2015, the report said, debt service would consume 23 cents of each dollar collected - twice as much as it does today.

Under Mr. Pataki and his predecessor, Mario M. Cuomo, the state sharply cut its subsidies to the authority, which now relies on fares and tolls for almost half of its revenue - a far greater proportion than in most transit systems in the United States.

Mr. Hevesi said the pattern of borrowing, rather than raising taxes and fees, could ultimately bankrupt the authority.

"The M.T.A. is facing its worst fiscal crisis since the 1980's because it borrowed more than it could afford to finance its capital program and made other bad management decisions," the report says. "The overreliance on debt to finance past capital programs, and the 2002 debt restructuring initiative, which took advantage of lower interest rates but also pushed debt out into the future, has strained the M.T.A.'s operating budget."

That budget, according to new financial projections the authority released this week, will have a deficit of $607 million in 2006, rising to $991 million in 2008. Those figures assume fare and toll increases in 2007 - following increases approved in March 2003 and December 2004 - and service reductions.

Lynn Rasic, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the report was unhelpful. "The comptroller is full of questions, yet he has no answers," she said. She added that "the governor has pushed for greater public accountability and transparency at the M.T.A."

A plan to reorganize the authority, which would include merging the Long Island and Metro-North railroads, has passed the State Senate but not the Assembly. Ms. Rasic said it would be "fiscally irresponsible" not to adopt the reorganization.

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February 25th, 2005, 09:11 AM
MTA looking for ways to slash costs


February 24, 2005, 10:31 PM EST

The MTA may have to scrap the purchase of new subway cars and the overhaul of stations if the agency's transportation renovations are not fully-funded, Executive Director Katherine Lapp said yesterday.

While adamant that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will get the entire $27.7 billion it requested for its 5-year capital program, Lapp said during a board meeting that agency leaders have nevertheless presented her with possible places to slash.

Since new tracks, lighting and signals are off the table, station maintenance and new subway cars are left as possible places to cut, according to Lapp.

"The choices are not easy," she said.

In its 2005-2009 capital program, the MTA has proposed renovating 55 subway stations -- ranging from Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn to 71st Avenue in Forest Hills -- and buying 959 new subway cars.

Lapp warned that hundreds of jobs across the state, from subway car manufacturing to construction work, could be lost if the plan were underfunded.

The MTA, however, anticipates money from the sale of a West Side rail yard.

Yesterday, the agency hired Newmark & Company Real Estate to serve as a consultant on the deal. The company will be paid up to $250,000 for the job.

Bids for the rail yard are due by the MTA's next board meeting in late March.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow yesterday chastised critics of the sale for concentrating on the lot, where the mayor has proposed building a stadium, and not the agency's bigger funding concerns.

"If 5 percent of the energy that we've spent on the stadium in the last month had been directed towards the capital program, which is much more critical to our operation, we would have that program today," he said.

The capital plan is the subject of budget negotiations in Albany. Gov. George Pataki last month proposed $19.2 billion -- which is $8.5 billion less than the agency requested -- to renovate, secure and expand the transportation network.

State Comptroller Alan Hevesi called parts of the the governor's budget risky, including a plan to save $360 million over three years from restructuring the MTA and from issuing pension obligation bonds.

Unions have opposed the restructuring as a threat to civil service protections.

Pataki's office criticized Hevesi as being "full of questions" but without answers.

Staff writer Joie Tyrrell contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc. (http://www.nynewsday.com/)

February 26th, 2005, 09:30 AM
February 26, 2005

Barreling Implacably Down the Tracks, a Fare Increase


http://graphics10.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/m.gifillions of New York City subway and bus riders will start to pay more for their commuting at precisely one second after midnight tomorrow, when the latest fare increase by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority takes effect.

It is the 15th increase in the 100-year history of the subway system. But it is the first to occur without an adjustment in the base fare for a single ride, which will remain $2.

What is changing are the prices of the unlimited-ride cards that have gradually become the fare medium of choice in the 11 years since the introduction of the MetroCard.

The cost of a 7-day card will rise to $24 from $21; a 30-day card to $76 from $70; and a 7-day express bus card to $41 from $37. The price of a one-way express bus ride will increase to $5 from $4.

The Sunday changes affect Long Island Bus as well.

On Tuesday, fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad will increase by an average of 5 percent, although some commuters will see increases as high as 15 percent. On March 13, tolls on the authority's bridges and tunnels will increase by 25 or 50 cents. The changes, approved in December, are occurring less than two years after the last increase. In 2003, the base subway and bus fare rose to $2 from $1.50 and the transit system stopped accepting the token, which had been an emblem of subway use since 1953.

Gone are the days when mechanics had to reconfigure turnstiles across the city to accept new tokens and when station booth attendants rationed the number of tokens customers could buy to prevent hoarding.

This fare change is being put into effect by engineers sitting over a mainframe computer that controls, among other devices, 3,143 regular turnstiles, 520 floor-to-ceiling turnstiles, 763 computers inside station booths with attendants and 2,240 MetroCard vending machines. Then there are 18 bus depot computers that communicate with fareboxes in 4,566 buses. The total work took the equivalent of three people working full-time for a month.

For a man who oversees computers that must be reprogrammed so that passengers can pay for seven million subway and bus rides each day, Robert A. Otero was nonchalant yesterday.

"We had minimal problems in 2003, and we expect minimal problems this time," said Mr. Otero, chief of applications in the technology and information services division at New York City Transit.

Still, he is not taking chances. Fare increases typically are put into effect on Sundays so that any problems can be ironed out before the Monday commuter rush. Starting tonight, workers will staff a 24-hour command center that will monitor the vending machines and other devices.

"We intend on closing it Tuesday morning," Mr. Otero said. "We'll cover the period when the fare first changes, we'll cover the period for a morning rush hour and an evening rush hour. After that, if everything runs smoothly, we'll disband it."

Francisco A. Villao, who oversaw the reprogramming of the machines, noted that the fare structure is more complex than it might appear. He cited, as an example, special fares for elderly or disabled riders, which are increasing to $12 for a 7-day card and $38 for a 30-day card.

In addition, the agency's accounting and internal reporting systems all need to be adjusted to record the revenues from the new fares, said Daniel R. Rodriguez, who supervises that effort.

Riders will have a grace period to use cards bought today or earlier. Seven-day fare cards and express bus passes bought under the old prices can be used until March 7, while 30-day cards can be used until April 3.

Nonetheless, the fare increase is not sitting well with many riders.

"An increase just happened, so why are we having another one so quickly?" asked Katherine Williams, 28, a television station employee who lives in Hell's Kitchen. "People of all demographics and all salary ranges are all affected by this. Everyone has to ride the subway. Of all the elements of New York City life, to raise the cost of the subway is awful."

Nick Griner, 29, a computer programmer from Harlem, said that as a frequent rider, he usually bought monthly cards to take advantage of the discount. "With the monthly, you can save a little bit, but even that's becoming less," he said. "The rates are increasing way too often."

Mr. Griner said, glumly, that the subway is a monopoly. "If they raised it to $5 per ride, people would still ride it," he said. "There's no way to really stop them."

Nancy Stearns, 65, a lawyer in the West Village, said the fare increase was an indication of the transportation authority's fiscal problems.

"The state should contribute money," she said. "It's crucial to have additional government funding for mass transit. It's important that working people not be stretched beyond the limit of what they can afford."

The 2003 fare increases raised less revenue than officials had predicted, largely because riders shifted their buying patterns toward the unlimited-ride cards. Now that the cost of those cards is about to increase, riders might flock to regular cards, which offer discounts on purchases of $10 or more.

"I don't think you can accurately predict what people will do," said Paul J. Fleuranges, a transit agency spokesman. "No one in New York pays retail. People will find the value that works best for them."

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting for this article.


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February 26th, 2005, 09:32 AM
February 26, 2005

Transit Chief Shows Signs of Political Independence


http://graphics10.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/l.gifast week, Peter S. Kalikow did something striking for a businessman who has been close to political power throughout his career. In the face of considerable pressure and criticism, he stood up to the city's political leaders, particularly Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and agreed to solicit other bids to compete with the football stadium proposal championed by the mayor.

He did so, he said, to bring in the most money for the region's financially strapped transit network. And his stance was only the most recent time Mr. Kalikow has used his perch as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to challenge the power structure on behalf of the system.

In December, he presented his fiercely anti-tax patron, Gov. George E. Pataki, with a proposal for tax and fee increases to pay for mass transit. Then he warned that without more money, projects like the Second Avenue subway were in jeopardy, in effect challenging Mr. Pataki to pay for a new five-year capital program.

Now he is arguing that the agency needs to get top dollar for its West Side railyards, the site of the proposed stadium for the Jets and potentially for the Olympics.

The role of independent and energetic advocate for transit was not one Mr. Kalikow was expected to play when Mr. Pataki appointed him the authority's eighth chairman in March 2001. A developer and investor who once owned The New York Post, Mr. Kalikow, 62, was better known as a Republican donor and heir to a real estate business than as a forceful voice in civic affairs.

Indeed, many believed that Mr. Kalikow would serve in the mold of his predecessor, E. Virgil Conway, who had made it clear that his first loyalties were to Mr. Pataki. But in recent months, Mr. Kalikow has become a far more forceful advocate for the system than Mr. Conway was, which was a result, Mr. Kalikow said, of his growing appreciation for the transit system.

"I don't want to use the word in love with it, but I kind of am," he said in an interview yesterday. "I just become more impressed with the place. The more I'm impressed with it, the more that I see that not to put in the money to keep the momentum going would be a terrible thing."

The amounts at stake for the West Side railyards, over which the stadium would be built in the city's plan, are but a small fraction of the $27.7 billion capital program the authority is seeking. Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden, has offered $600 million for the right to build a residential, retail and office development over the yards, less the cost of building a platform. The Jets have offered $100 million for the right to erect a stadium.

Yet the two issues have become inextricably linked, particularly because the bidding is taking place at the moment that the authority is pleading for a capital budget to anyone who will listen.

"The coincidence of the timing here is extraordinary," said Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the authority who talks regularly with Mr. Kalikow.

Mr. Kalikow inherited a system in relatively good physical shape - with new cars, rehabilitated stations and ambitious plans for expansion - because his predecessors had issued bonds and fought for state aid to revive a moribund system. But during Mr. Conway's tenure, from 1995 to 2001, the authority began to rely increasingly on new borrowing and debt restructuring.

Subway ridership today is cresting at levels last seen during the Eisenhower administration, yet the authority's solvency is unclear. It anticipates operating deficits of close to $1 billion a year starting in 2008, even with another toll and fare increase anticipated in 2007. The latest subway and bus fare increase, approved in December, takes effect tomorrow.

The need for still more upgrades to repair an aging subway system gained new urgency last month when a fire destroyed a signal relay room in Lower Manhattan dating from the 1930's, crippling service on the A and C subway lines for over a week.

Mr. Kalikow has privately said that his reputation would be tarnished by any perception that he had made a sweetheart deal or handed away the development rights without trying to get the highest possible price, according to his friends and associates.

"I think he views it as an independent, professional real estate matter," said the authority's vice chairman, David S. Mack, a friend of Mr. Kalikow's since childhood. "This is a real estate deal under the jurisdiction of the M.T.A., and there isn't a better real estate expert than Peter."

Mr. Ravitch, who opposes the stadium proposal, said Mr. Kalikow was determined that the authority get full value for its assets. "He's tough and he's smart," Mr. Ravitch said. "Basically his pride as well as his fiduciary responsibility make him unwilling to cave on this."

Mr. Kalikow stopped short of criticizing Mr. Pataki yesterday, but he made it clear that they are at odds over the need for new transit aid. "He doesn't do it out of spite or malice," Mr. Kalikow said. "He has an aversion to taxes." He added, "I don't have a problem, being a Republican, saying we need to invest in the mass transit system."

Friends said Mr. Kalikow was convinced that his tenure would be judged by his success or failure in securing money to maintain and expand the transit network.

"He really has drunk the Kool-Aid," said Martin J. McLaughlin, a personal spokesman for Mr. Kalikow. "He has told me, 'If this capital budget doesn't go through, I may not want to stay on as chairman. I don't want to be the guy that presides over the Titanic.' "

As early as last March, when Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Pataki unveiled their plans for the stadium, Mr. Kalikow began to say that he believed the development rights were worth at least $400 million. When the Jets' offer came in much lower, Mr. Kalikow said, "I thought $100 million, frankly, was an insult."

Mr. Kalikow said his decision to invite other bidders came after a weekend of discussions with Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, and with Ira M. Millstein, a lawyer who has advised the authority. "In the end, Ira said, 'Peter, you can't do anything but put this out for bid,' " Mr. Kalikow said, adding that he had already favored that course of action.

Gene Russianoff, a lawyer for an advocacy group for riders, the Straphangers Campaign of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the decision to hold an auction is only the latest indication of Mr. Kalikow's sense of urgency.

"His moves - from warning about the loss of the Second Avenue subway to putting out a program of new revenue sources - are signs of a man who's on a mission to get the next capital program even though it's probably the heaviest lift in 20 years," Mr. Russianoff said.

Even Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky of Westchester County, a frequent critic of the authority, offered measured praise.

"You have to recognize Kalikow's courage in standing up to the mayor and the governor in soliciting bids for the property," said Mr. Brodsky, the chairman of the Assembly committee that oversees the authority. "This is about getting full value for the asset. He's saying, 'Where's my capital plan?' "

However, others point out that Mr. Kalikow may have had little choice but to open the railyards for bidding. "He had no alternative," said Mr. Conway, who is also a friend of the chairman. "I think once Cablevision had made a bid, the proper move was to invite everybody."

Mr. Conway has an office on the same floor - the 25th - as Mr. Kalikow does at 101 Park Avenue, a building which Mr. Kalikow owns. Alfonse M. D'Amato, the former United States senator who has been close to Mr. Kalikow for years, also has an office on that floor.

Mr. D'Amato is a lobbyist for Cablevision, but Mr. Kalikow said his decision to hold an auction was not influenced by his friend. "I'm not saying that sometimes he doesn't try to give me a hint one way or the other, but I say, 'Senator, this has got to go by the book,' " Mr. Kalikow said. Mr. D'Amato did not respond to requests for comment.

Still others believe that the structure of the auction favors the Jets, because the city might not agree to rezone the yards for any purpose other than a stadium, and also believe that the authority should independently seek a rezoning under state law. Mr. Kalikow said he believed that this power can legally be exercised only for strictly transit purposes.

Peter E. Stangl, the authority's chairman from 1991 to 1995, said it was ultimately in the interests of the governor and mayor to have Mr. Kalikow as a strong transit advocate.

"The best politics is providing great service," Mr. Stangl said. "If you ignore the capital investment, you may get away with it for a year or two, and they've tried it before, but pretty soon the service deteriorates, it has an impact on the economy and eventually the chickens come home to roost."

A Queens native, Mr. Kalikow inherited his family's real estate business after the death of his father, Harold J. Kalikow, in 1982. No longer an active developer, Mr. Kalikow was not a particularly successful businessman. He lost millions of dollars as the owner of The New York Post, from 1988 to 1993, and faced embarrassing scrutiny of his finances when he was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in 1991.

For now, Mr. Kalikow appears to have strong support from his board.

Barry L. Feinstein, a board member since 1989 who represents the governor, said Mr. Kalikow is looking out for the interests of riders above all else. "My point of view has always been that what's good for the city is not necessarily good for the M.T.A. and what's good for the M.T.A. is not necessarily good for the city," Mr. Feinstein said.

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February 28th, 2005, 07:13 AM
February 28, 2005

Facing the Pain of Rising Fares, and Riding On

By SEWELL CHAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=SEWELL%20CHAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=SEWELL%20CHAN&inline=nyt-per) and ANN FARMER

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/n.gifew York City subway and bus riders coped with confusion and complained plenty yesterday, as the transit system's second fare increase in less than two years took effect.

At the Sutphin Boulevard station on the F line in Jamaica, Queens, a booth attendant, Bernetta Taylor, helped riders who stared at a board advising them of the changes.

"They ask how much it's going up," Ms. Taylor said. "They look at the sign and they want to make sure today is the day. They're resigned, like, 'Oh, boy.' "

The price of a 7-day MetroCard rose to $24 from $21, a 30-day card to $76 from $70, and a 7-day express bus card to $41 from $33. The price of a one-way express bus ride increased to $5 from $4. The changes also affected Long Island Bus passengers.

The last fare increase occurred in May 2003. This time, the base fare for a single ride, $2, did not change, nor did the discounts for regular MetroCard purchases of $10 or more. The cost of a one-day Fun Pass, popular among tourists and weekend travelers, also remained unchanged at $7.

But reduced-fare cards for the elderly or disabled increased yesterday, to $38 for a 30-day card and $12 for a 7-day card. Tomorrow, fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad will increase by an average of 5 percent. On March 13, tolls on most of the authority's bridges and tunnels will rise by 25 or 50 cents each way, and on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which collects a toll in only one direction, by $1.

Notices in English, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Spanish were posted throughout the subway system. Even so, riders varied widely in their understanding of the fare increases and their reaction to them.

On Saturday evening, commuters formed long lines at subway station booths to buy fare cards before the increase took effect.

"The whole public came down last night like the buses were letting them off," said Richard C. Rigby, a booth attendant at the Utica Avenue station on the A and C lines in Brooklyn. "There was an influx around 9 p.m., and it was a very steady stream. The majority of them bought at least two 7-day cards."

One rider threatened to jump the turnstile in protest. "You guys keep going up, so I'm going over," the rider said, according to Mr. Rigby.

While it might have made sense to buy an extra card for one's own use - or to pick up cards for friends and relatives - the Metropolitan Transportation Authority effectively made it impossible to avoid the increase by hoarding cards in advance.

Seven-day fare cards and express bus passes bought under the old prices must be used by March 7, and 30-day cards by April 3. After those dates, the cards will automatically expire.

The authority will refund each card's unused value on a pro-rated basis, but riders must mail in the cards using special postage-paid envelopes.

Daily commuters said they felt hit the hardest. They said the higher up-front payments were particularly daunting.

"By the time you factor in the cost of the monthly, you're basically paying what you'd pay for gas for a month," said Christina Elmore, 20, a college student and coffee shop worker, as she waited at a Long Island Bus terminal in Hempstead.

Amar Bedessie, 28, said he could hardly afford the $3 increase in the cost of his weekly fare card. "I just had a kid, and I have to save everything I can," said Mr. Bedessie, a computer technician from Briarwood, Queens.

Mike Mallari, 27, a Web designer riding a Manhattan-bound F train in Queens, said the $6-a-month increase amounted to "a couple of cups of coffee," but added, "If it keeps happening every year or two, it's going to be a problem for a lot of people."

Carlton Willey, 24, a paralegal from Park Slope, Brooklyn, said he used the subways seven days a week and was resigned to the changes. "I wouldn't mind it if the service improved, but it looks like they're also cutting service," he said. "There's no alternative for me. I can't afford a car. And I work all the way downtown, so parking would be a problem."

The increased complexity of the fare structure since 1998, when sale of discounted and unlimited-ride cards began, has made riders reach for their calculators to discern the best deal.

"I figured it out, and I'd have to ride it more than two times a day for it to be worth it," Jessica Wagner, 32, a waitress from Fort Greene, said of the unlimited-ride cards. "Sometimes I ride to work, but take a cab home, so it's not worth it."

The chairman of the transportation authority, Peter S. Kalikow, noted that because of the discounts and unlimited-ride cards, it collected an average of only $1.24 a ride last year, not counting students, compared with $1.38 in 1996.

Last year, for the first time, the unlimited-ride cards were used for a majority of all rides.

"Remember, 50 percent of our riders are not paying anything more," Mr. Kalikow said, using a rough estimate. "The 50 percent who are affected by the unlimited-ride cards are still getting a terrific buy. It's still the best buy around."

That perspective seemed to resonate with a few riders, who said they used the transit network so often that an unlimited-ride card remained the best option.

"I think it's a reasonable deal: $76 a month gets you anywhere in town," said Patrick Davis, 36, who lives in Tudor City on the East Side of Manhattan and works in finance.

Linda Bredow, 57, a home health care aide from Valley Stream, in Nassau County, said she often took four bus rides a day because she worked two shifts. "Twenty-four dollars for the week is a good thing," she said. "I can afford $3 a week more."

Stacy Albin and Colin Moynihan contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 8th, 2005, 06:47 AM
March 8, 2005

Spending Plan Helps the State, M.T.A. Is Telling Legislators

By SEWELL CHAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=SEWELL%20CHAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=SEWELL%20CHAN&inline=nyt-per)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/t.gifhe document resembles a travelogue of the Empire State, taking the reader from Orchard Park to Oriskany, Sidney to Syracuse, Tonawanda to Troy. The goal, however, is to promote transit, not tourism.

In a new strategy to persuade Albany to pay for a five-year capital program, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is distributing an eight-page brochure that highlights dozens of subway, bus and commuter rail parts that are made in the state.

The information is intended to persuade members of the Legislature and county executives across the state to support the authority's request for a $27.7 billion capital plan through 2009. But the findings might be particularly surprising for riders in the New York City area.

Riders of new subway cars running on the Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 6 lines might not know that the lighting is from Buffalo, the ventilation system from Auburn and the fabricated metal parts from Kingston and Farmingdale.

Similarly, passengers on the latest clean-fuel city buses might be unaware that the propulsion system was made in Johnson City and the sheet metal in Utica. As for the shiny M7 rail cars operated by the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad - well, you get the idea. The authority's capital plan includes plans to buy 1,010 hybrid electric or compressed natural gas buses, 1,044 subway cars and 486 rail cars.

Gov. George E. Pataki has proposed a capital plan that includes $14.7 billion to maintain the existing system, $500,000 for security and $4 billion for expansion projects, although half of the $4 billion would come from New York City for an extension of the No. 7 line.

The authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, has insisted that $17.2 billion is needed for maintenance, and that the governor's plan would mean delaying major projects, like the Second Avenue subway and a link between the Long Island Rail Road and Grand Central Terminal.

Maps showing the origins of the authority's rolling stock provide an illustration of the impact of transit spending, the authority's director, Katherine N. Lapp, said yesterday. "We've sent them to the leaders in the State Legislature," she said.

"They're looking at our capital plan, and I want them to understand that it's not just for the benefit of downstate. My point is: Even if you never step foot in our system, the fact is that if you're in one of the areas where we employ New Yorkers, you're benefiting from us."

Using a model originally developed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Ms. Lapp's staff estimated that the authority's previous capital program, for 2000 to 2004, generated $25.3 billion in economic activity, $10.2 billion in wages and salaries and $941 million in state and local taxes.

The effort to persuade state lawmakers occurred as the authority's top lobbyist, Christopher P. Boylan, joined officials from other transit agencies across the United States in Washington to lobby for reauthorization of a major federal transportation law. The law, known as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, expired in 2003. The Bush administration has proposed spending $284 billion on a new six-year bill that includes financing for both highway and transit purposes.

The secretary of transportation, Norman Y. Mineta, said yesterday that there had been six temporary extensions since the last law expired. "None of us wants a seventh extension," he said during a meeting of the American Public Transportation Association, which represents more than 300 of the largest transit agencies, including New York's.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 8th, 2005, 01:15 PM
I give them credit for a creative approach to getting the capital plan passed.

April 27th, 2005, 01:35 AM
M.T.A. Delays 2 Excavation Contracts After State's Budget Reduction

Published: April 27, 2005

In a sign of uncertainty over the financing of its grand expansion projects, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said yesterday that it had put off awarding two contracts for tunnel excavation in Queens and Manhattan, totaling $460 million, that are vital to a project to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal.

Members of the authority's board expressed doubts about the feasibility of the $3.8 billion project, known as East Side Access, and suggested that another plan, to build a subway under Second Avenue in Manhattan, was even less likely to be realized.

The gloomy predictions came as board members met for the first time since Gov. George E. Pataki agreed to a state budget that provides $21.1 billion for transit infrastructure projects through 2009 - $6.7 billion less than the authority requested in September. The board's finance committee approved a scaled-back capital program for the next five years that would defer the rehabilitation of 12 subway stations and shelve construction of a 16-track storage yard for the Long Island Rail Road, among other cost-cutting efforts.

After the full board meets tomorrow, the authority will submit the revised plan to the Capital Program Review Board, a panel that includes representatives of Mr. Pataki and the leaders of both chambers of the Legislature.

In 1982, the authority began a succession of capital programs that are credited with reviving the subway, bus and commuter rail networks after decades of neglect and underinvestment. But it has become increasingly clear that in the latest plan, for 2005 to 2009, expectations outpaced fiscal and political realities.

Even the reduced plan approved yesterday assumes passage of a $2.9 billion transportation bond act - half of which would benefit the authority - that will be put before the state's voters in November. It also assumes that the authority can raise $1.4 billion from asset sales and other sources.

The authority's already high debt will grow even more. Through 2009, it will borrow $5.1 billion, to be paid off by $350 million a year in higher taxes and fees that the Legislature has approved.

As the reality of the constraints on the authority's spending sank in yesterday, several board members expressed deep skepticism about its plans for expansion.

"I don't see how in the world you can do both of those projects," said Barry L. Feinstein, a board member since 1989 and chairman of the committee that oversees New York City Transit.

Mark D. Lebow, a corporate lawyer who represents Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on the board, said that the state budget was "insufficient for either" project and predicted that the Second Avenue subway would not be built.

The two tunneling contracts were put out for bids last August. Several firms responded and the authority has identified the two firms that would get the work.

East Side Access has progressed farther than the Second Avenue subway, and would seem the logical priority if a choice between the two had to be made. It is expected to cost $6.3 billion and to be completed by 2012. Design started in March 1999 and construction officially began in September 2001. As of last month, $736.7 million had been spent.

By comparison, the Second Avenue subway is projected to cost $16.8 billion. The first segment, from 96th to 63rd Streets, is estimated to cost $3.8 billion and to be completed by 2012. Design began in December 2001, and construction was supposed to start last December, but has been postponed to this September. As of last month, $211.2 million had been spent.

Both projects have powerful proponents in the Legislature. The proposed subway line is backed by the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, while the Long Island Rail Road project has a champion in State Senator Dean G. Skelos, a Republican from Nassau County and the Senate's deputy majority leader.

The authority's executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, tried yesterday to put a positive spin on the reductions. "The good news is, the integrity, safety and reliability of our system will be maintained," she said.

Ms. Lapp said it would take "a couple of weeks, maybe a month or so" to reassess the two schedules.

Another uncertainty is the extent of federal support for the two projects. The Federal Transit Administration has rated both as high priorities, and the authority's new budget assumes a $1 billion contribution from a federal program, New Starts, that finances transit construction. Federal officials may balk, however, if the state does not demonstrate its readiness to provide enough matching dollars to move the projects forward.

In another development, the authority disclosed yesterday that New York City Transit had raised $2.9 million less in fares than it had projected in March, the first full month since fares were increased on Feb. 27. Officials attributed the shortfall in part to inclement weather.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

September 20th, 2006, 04:09 AM
September 20, 2006
M.T.A. Seeks Service Cuts of $20 Million

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has proposed cuts of $20 million to bus and subway service for next year, meaning that riders could face longer waits for many buses and trains, which would be more crowded. The proposed cuts, which advocates said would be the most extensive service reductions in years, are a precursor to the kind of inconvenience riders may experience in the near future as deficits of more than $1 billion loom.

The cuts would add one to five minutes to wait times on many subway lines and local bus routes during off-peak periods. For subways, it would mean that on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., all trains would run every 10 minutes, according to authority budget documents. Evening and late-night waiting times would be from 10 to 20 minutes.

The reduction in bus service would affect about 65 percent of the system’s 181 local routes, according to Timothy O’Brien, an authority spokesman.

Tom Kelly, another agency spokesman, said the service cuts were part of a package of budget measures being considered by New York City Transit, which runs the subways and buses. “The board members are each reviewing the budget, as are the executive director and the chairman, and there is no final decision,” he said.

But the proposal has already drawn sharp criticism from one influential member of the M.T.A. board, which would have to approve the cuts. Barry Feinstein, who heads the committee that oversees New York City Transit, said he would oppose the plan. “These are substantial service cuts,” Mr. Feinstein said. “That is not what I want to see, particularly at a time when our ridership is higher than ever and we have busy crowded subways in the middle of the night.”

Mr. Feinstein, who attended a briefing last week on the proposal by New York City Transit’s president, Lawrence G. Reuter, said, “I just don’t believe we have any need to do those changes.”

The subway cuts, which the authority estimates would save $4.96 million in 2007, were detailed in a preliminary budget for next year that was released in July.

But the bus cuts, which are projected to provide $15.1 million in savings next year, received only the briefest of mentions in the budget document, with little or no detailed explanation. Mr. O’Brien said the bus cuts were made public and approved in December 2004, with an eye toward the 2005 budget. But because the authority ran large surpluses in 2005 and 2006, the belt-tightening measure was postponed.

Now the authority is asking the board to allow the bus cuts to take effect, along with the reduction in subway service. The dual cuts would be phased in over 2007. Once they were fully carried out, they would provide a total of $48.3 million in budget savings in 2008, according to authority estimates.

The authority has been running surpluses of hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, but it expects a surplus of just $36 million in 2007. And the agency is about to face serious financial challenges stemming from ballooning debt payments. In 2008, the agency projects a deficit of $905 million, increasing to $1.13 billion in 2009 and $1.48 billion in 2010.

Next year’s budget also calls for a 5 percent increase in subway and bus fares, which would go into effect in September.

Transit advocates said it had been more than a decade since such extensive service cuts were contemplated.

“People are coming to transit in droves, in part because of the gas crisis, and we’ve had about $30 billion in improvements to the subway and bus system,” said Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, an advocacy group. “It’s no time to be making buses more crowded, making people have longer waits.”

He called the bus service reductions “stealth cuts” and took the authority to task for not spelling them out more fully in the 2007 budget documents.

“The M.T.A. prides itself on a series of reforms to make itself more transparent,” Mr. Russianoff said. “This one’s a big disappointment.”

Andrew Albert, a nonvoting board member who represents transit riders, said he was concerned about the impact of the cuts.

“I sense resistance on the part of many board members to these proposals, because rising ridership would dictate that you don’t do these things,” Mr. Albert said. “You don’t decrease service, you increase service. At some point down the road you’re talking about a fare increase, and the worst thing you can do is ask people to pay more, and give less. That’s a nonwinning combination.”

Mr. Feinstein said the cuts reflected the authority’s anxiety over the approaching deficits.

“One of the theories is that by making cuts now you reduce the burden of going into ’08, and I would quarrel with that being a reality,” he said. Referring to the change in subway waiting times, technically referred to as headway, he said, “I am not of the view that making a $5 million cut in the subways with headway is going to have any impact on a billion-dollar budget deficit.”

The authority declined to identify specific subway and bus routes that would be affected by the cuts.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

September 20th, 2006, 08:39 AM
M.T.A. Seeks Service Cuts of $20 Million

Insanity. Is there a more harmful way to save a paltry $20 million?

September 20th, 2006, 09:48 AM
M.T.A. Seeks Service Cuts of $20 Million

... a precursor to the kind of inconvenience riders may experience in the near future as deficits of more than $1 billion loom.

... because the authority ran large surpluses in 2005 and 2006, the belt-tightening measure was postponed.

... The authority has been running surpluses of hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, but it expects a surplus of just $36 million in 2007. And the agency is about to face serious financial challenges stemming from ballooning debt payments.

In 2008, the agency projects a deficit of $905 million, increasing to $1.13 billion in 2009 and $1.48 billion in 2010.

... the cuts reflected the authority’s anxiety over the approaching deficits.

Is this what we all have to expect for the future from Government agencies?

Have our oh-so-wise leaders leveraged us to the point that all surpluses magically become deficits practically overnight?

WTF are these people doing????????

September 20th, 2006, 01:10 PM
Well, when your federal government is the single largest debtor in the world...

Used to be that keeping a balanced budget was the norm, except for times of great need (e.g., war). Now, whoever manages to accomplish it is lauded as a fiscal policy genius. Go figure.

September 20th, 2006, 02:30 PM
They are not seeking to pay down debt with budget surpluses.

Instead, any extra money is earmarked quickly for risk of recall by the governor or other parties. You saw how quick the unions got out and asked for more money when they heard there was a surplus! (Not that the unions are as evil as some people would have you believe, but asking for a raise just because the money is there is a REALLY low tactic that should not be supported.)


#1 - Maintenance
#2 - Debt Reduction
#3 - Infrastructure improvement and optimization (reduction in maintenance/overhead)
#4 - Employee benefits and MOTIVATIONAL programs

Man, I have been all over today, sorry if I lost track of this post, but the bottom line comes to fiscal responsibility and trying to rework this system that seems to punish you if you do not find a way to spend any surplus you have at years end.

September 20th, 2006, 11:54 PM
M.T.A. Chairman Says He’ll Block Service Cuts and Oppose New Fares


Published: September 21, 2006

The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said yesterday that he intended to block $20 million in bus and subway service cuts proposed for next year and was strongly opposed to a planned fare increase.

Peter S. Kalikow, the authority chairman, said the agency’s board would not approve a 2007 budget that included the service cuts, which would have added as much as five minutes to the waiting time on many subway lines and bus routes during off-peak hours.

He said the board would also not accept a proposed 5 percent fare increase, which would have gone into effect next September.

“What I’m doing, officially, is letting New York City Transit know that the M.T.A. board, which runs New York City Transit, does not want a fare increase or service cuts and they need to find other things to do, if necessary,” Mr. Kalikow said. “Those two things are not things we’re going to be interested in.” New York City Transit runs the city’s bus and subway system.

Mr. Kalikow spoke the day that an article in The New York Times reported that the proposed service cuts were more extensive than the authority had publicly acknowledged.

The authority had previously pushed back the fare increase from next January to next September, saying that a budget surplus this year made the increase unnecessary until that time.

The increase was part of a policy to raise fares in moderate amounts every two years.

But yesterday, Mr. Kalikow said that the authority could make it through 2007 with no increase at all.

“When there are fare increases needed, I have no qualms about instituting them,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s one required now.”

He added, “I feel, judging by the things I’ve seen, that we will not need a fare increase through the end of ‘07.”

Mr. Kalikow said he had discussed the issues with other board members.

The authority released a preliminary 2007 budget in July that spelled out the fare increase and $4.9 million in cuts to subway service. An additional $15.1 million in cuts to bus service, however, was largely hidden from view in the budget.

Both cuts would have resulted in fewer buses and trains on many routes, creating longer waits and more crowding.

“Service cuts are something we do not like,” Mr. Kalikow said. “We abhor them. We think they’re wrong. You don’t get the increase in the ridership we’ve had in the last few years by cutting service. You do by increasing service.”

The board will discuss the budget at meetings next week and in October, and it is expected to approve a final 2007 budget in December.

The authority has been running large surpluses in recent years, including a projected $711 million surplus this year.

But the budget for 2007 estimated a surplus of just $36 million. That estimate, however, included both additional income from a September fare increase and savings from the service cuts.

Beginning in 2008, the authority faces enormous deficits as a result of ballooning debt obligations. It projects a deficit of $905 million in 2008, growing to $1.4 billion in 2010.

Without the fare increases, it estimated that the deficit would reach $1.14 billion in 2008 and continue to grow after that at a faster rate.

Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a transit advocacy group, praised Mr. Kalikow’s opposition to the fare increase and the service cuts and said that it would be up to a new governor, who will take office in January, to find a solution to the authority’s fiscal crisis.

“All the big issues are now squarely in the lap of the new governor: fare hike, service cuts, more state aid, M.T.A. efficiencies,” Mr. Russianoff said. “Doing a fare hike in December helps take the new governor off the hook. And if they have the money to make it through 2007 and they have really big deficits in ‘08 and ’09, the whole menu of options should be there as a whole and enacted as a package.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

September 21st, 2006, 08:38 AM
The authority has been running large surpluses in recent years, including a projected $711 million surplus this year.

Beginning in 2008, the authority faces enormous deficits as a result of ballooning debt obligations.

Why is this so difficult to understand?

You have $711 MILLION now. What the hell are you doing with it?

They need to pay off that debt.

Also, how do debt payments balloon unless the interest was a variable rate, or deferred payment? I do not think it is 100% the fault of the debt here.Thing is, it is awfully hard to summarize the financial situation of an organization that large in a way that people would be interested in reading about it.

So, we get "ballooning debt threatens MTA with billion dollar deficit" and the like.

Whatever gets your at attention!

September 21st, 2006, 01:43 PM
Why is this so difficult to understand?

You have $711 MILLION now. What the hell are you doing with it?

They need to pay off that debt.

Also, how do debt payments balloon unless the interest was a variable rate, or deferred payment? I do not think it is 100% the fault of the debt here.Thing is, it is awfully hard to summarize the financial situation of an organization that large in a way that people would be interested in reading about it.

So, we get "ballooning debt threatens MTA with billion dollar deficit" and the like.

Whatever gets your at attention!

I dont think fare increases is as bad as cutting service, whoever proposed that should be fired from MTA right now. Service is the number one thing, you whole mission as a transportation authority is to move people from point a to point b, hopefully with some sense of comfort and affordably. I dont think raising fares can be avoided, I just think they need to open up the books and let the public look at what they are doing with the money.

September 21st, 2006, 02:32 PM
Plus MTA has already been doing service cutbacks on many lines for the past few years -- as anyone who uses the subway during "off hours" knows.

September 27th, 2006, 04:03 AM
September 27, 2006
Manhattan: Bigger M.T.A. Surplus Seen

The budget surplus for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is likely to be even larger this year than previously predicted because of continuing strong tax revenues tied to real estate sales, officials said yesterday. The office of State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi said the surplus would probably be $140 million greater than the authority’s earlier estimate of $711 million. The authority acknowledged this week that revenues from taxes related to real estate were currently $46 million ahead of projections but declined to give a new estimate for the year-end surplus. Peter S. Kalikow, the authority’s chairman, said last week that subway and bus service cuts and a 5 percent fare and toll increase that had been planned to help balance the 2007 budget would not be necessary.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

January 30th, 2007, 11:24 PM
Surging Costs Threaten New York Transit Projects

Published: January 31, 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/nyregion/31transit.html)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces surging costs that could force it to eliminate or postpone badly needed projects less than halfway through a five-year, $21 billion program to expand and improve its transit system. By one estimate, the program is now $1.4 billion over budget.

Among the projects in that program are renovations to subway and commuter train stations, maintenance of antiquated signal systems, and the purchase of hundreds of buses and subway cars, and many of the projects may be affected, officials indicated.

Much of the problem has been caused by a rapid increase in the cost of construction in New York City, as a result of rising prices for materials and the large number of new projects, which gives contractors the leverage to charge more. In many cases, fewer companies are bidding on projects and offers are coming in much higher than expected.

Another problem is the weak dollar, which appears likely to raise the cost of a contract for subway cars with French and Japanese companies.

“There’s no question that there are serious financial issues confronting the M.T.A. with its current five-year capital program,” said Elliot G. Sander, who took over as executive director and chief executive of the authority this month. “We are particularly concerned about the increase that we are seeing in construction costs, and we have undertaken a comprehensive look at the issue.”

Mr. Sander said yesterday that it was “far too early” to predict whether the rising costs would affect fares.

The alarm was raised in December, when the president of New York City Transit, Lawrence G. Reuter, in a memo to senior staff members, warned of more than $1.4 billion in cost increases in the long-term spending plan and said rising costs were “seriously undermining our ability to proceed with major portions of our program.”

It is not the first time in the authority’s history that officials have warned about changing economic conditions leading to unfulfilled promises, but longtime watchers of the authority said the magnitude of the problem highlighted in Mr. Reuter’s memo was unsettling.

“That isn’t chipping away,” said Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a group that advocates for the needs of transit riders. “That’s cleaving. It’s a huge hole.”

The five-year plan, known as the 2005-9 capital program, includes so-called mega projects, like the Second Avenue subway, a Long Island Rail Road link to Grand Central Terminal and an extension of the No. 7 subway line.

Mr. Russianoff said he was concerned that officials might push ahead with such high-profile undertakings while sacrificing some of the smaller projects needed to keep the transit system in good shape, like buying new subway and rail cars and making station repairs.

In his memo, Mr. Reuter said the cost increases put the transit agency’s basic goal of maintaining a state of good repair in the subway and bus system “in jeopardy” and could force it “to delay long overdue investments.”

Mr. Sander, however, said he would protect the system’s basic needs, calling them “the first priority of the M.T.A.”

Mr. Reuter’s memo dealt with the portion of the long-term spending program administered by New York City Transit, which runs the subways and buses.
His agency accounts for more than half the authority’s overall capital program, with $11.2 billion in projects.

In his memo, Mr. Reuter warned that the agency’s estimate of cost increases could go much higher.

Mr. Reuter, who is retiring next month after more than 10 years as head of New York City Transit, refused through a spokesman to be interviewed.

Officials at the authority said part of the problem they have encountered in recent months was that projects are attracting fewer bidders than they expected.

This is believed to be because some contractors already have all the work they can handle. When contracts attract fewer bidders, contractors feel less pressure to bid lower.

The problems go well beyond subways and buses, however.

Tom Bach, the chief engineer for the authority’s bridges and tunnels division, said yesterday that it was “frightening” to open the bids in October from three established contractors for extensive work on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge in Queens and find all the bids substantially over the estimate of about $55 million. The bids ranged from $74.9 million to $86.5 million.

As a result, the bids were set aside, and officials decided to split the project into two pieces. The authority will seek bids on one portion later this year and defer the rest of the work until after 2009.

Mr. Bach said that his division had yet to award contracts for what had been estimated as $400 million worth of projects under the capital program, and that he now expected the work to cost $40 million more.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

November 17th, 2007, 06:47 PM
Found an article: http://wcbstv.com/local/mta.ez.pass.2.569988.html

Quote, originally posted by CBS News »

While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority pleads poverty and says it has to raise your fares and tolls, a CBS 2 HD investigation uncovered tens of thousands of chosen bureaucrats who are getting a free ride. It's an appalling investigation that led David Moretti, the head of the MTA's Bridge and Tunnel division to avoid being questioned by CBS 2 HD. Moretti was so anxious to get away from CBS 2 HD cameras, in fact, that he hid in a classroom for 45 minutes before a scheduled MTA fare hike hearing.

What was he hiding from? He's running from questions about free rides.

At a time when the agency wants to raise fares, it's giving free orange EZ passes to nearly 24,000 people to get across the MTA's nine bridges and tunnels.
That's 3.3 million trips.

"It's outrageous. It makes me completely angry," says Jana Glowatz of East Meadow.

Councilman Michael McMahon, D-Staten Island, testified passionately against the fare hike. He was stunned to learn of the free pass scheme.
"That's the most outrageous thing I've ever heard, and if it's true, whoever's doing it should go to jail," he said.

After four months of CBS 2 HD demanding information and answers, the MTA said they couldn't or wouldn't identify most of the people who have the freebies.
But in CBS 2 HD's investigation, it was discovered that nearly 1,000 retired bridge and tunnel workers have lifetime free passes instituted when the spans were first built. Former board members 52, and present board members have 34.

The big wigs can have as many as they want. Former MTA chair Peter Kalikow has eight, former member Richard Nasti has four, and six former board members each have three.

"That makes it even more clear they're not entitled to a fare hike, they're mismanaging and obviously stealing from taxpayers," says McMahon.
Kalikow tells CBS 2 HD he has eight passes because he's a car collector, while Nasti, despite MTA records, says he really only has two.
Both men claim they are the sole users.

And just for the record, MTA executive director Elliot Sander doesn't have a free pass and newly installed MTA chairman Dale Hemmer Ginger has two.
When Moretti finally came out of hiding, CBS 2 HD asked him how he thought the public would react to the freebies.
"That's really up to the public to decide, I wouldn't speculate on it," he said.

New Yorkers left no need to speculate.

"If they're actually giving their own employees free rides then why can't we have them?" asks Brooklyn resident William Peace.
Adds Queens resident Gene Martial: "Give the commuters back the money."

Transit advocates say the MTA should conduct a full-scale investigation to find out who has the free passes and if they're being abused.

CBS 2 HD intends to continue asking questions about it as well.

if this doesn't make you angry nothing will

November 18th, 2007, 08:03 AM
"Transit advocates say the MTA should conduct a full-scale investigation to find out who has the free passes and if they're being abused. "

No one should get a free pass. No one should be able to abuse them in the first place.

This doesn't suprise me. It's just like people getting parking place cards.

November 19th, 2007, 10:33 AM
That is a difficult one.

If you WORK for the MTA, you should get a free pass.


If you work for Great Adventure, you should get some sort of benefit for it. You should not be able to get your friends in for free, but requiring you to pay would be a little unfair.

I think that they should institute an open policy. Retired and current MTA workers should get one (with a minimum requirement of years of service). And POSSIBLY a benefit of one additional free pass after working XX years for the system (for spouse/companion).

Now aside from that, where are all the other 24 THOUSAND passes going? I think these things should be restricted to prevent abuse, but government officials should not be denied all benefits of where they are working. The key here is to make sure it is not abused, as it is being done now.

November 19th, 2007, 03:56 PM
I think the employees could get one at a discounted rate.

November 19th, 2007, 05:07 PM
Discount could be made available on hiring.

The free pass would only be there after they had worked a year or two.

Also, think about it. As an employee benefit, it is good, but not great. It is butter. Take it or leave it it does not cost the MTA all that much.

Also I believe this should not be focused on all by itself. I love how people seem to think that every one of these passes is somehow letting a person ride it non-stop and costing us all millions when the person that has it would probably not get a monthly anyway.

It is like the whole piracy issue. As bad as it is, not everyone that downloads is going to buy the material if they could not find it, so equating 1:1 is not correct.....

As I said, this is not the only issue. They should not devote too much effort to this alone, but only site it as an example of other mis-spendings and try to put a halt to all of them.

November 21st, 2007, 06:06 AM
In Shift, Fare for the Subway Will Stay at $2

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/11/21/nyregion/21spitzer.600.jpg Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times
Gov. Eliot Spitzer, center, with the M.T.A.’s executive director, Elliot G. Sander, left, and chairman, H. Dale Hemmerdinger.

By WILLIAM NEUMAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=WILLIAM NEUMAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=WILLIAM NEUMAN&inline=nyt-per) and KATE HAMMER
Published: November 21, 2007

Gov. Eliot Spitzer (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/eliot_l_spitzer/index.html?inline=nyt-per) abruptly announced yesterday that he was shelving a plan to raise the base subway fare, saying that an unexpected increase in ridership and other revenues have made it unnecessary.

Increases in the price of unlimited ride MetroCards, commuter rail tickets and bridge and tunnel tolls are still likely, the governor said. But he said that the increases over all would be much smaller than those proposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/m/metropolitan_transportation_authority/index.html?inline=nyt-org), which had sought a total increase of 6.5 percent from fare and toll revenue.

“We are trying to maintain a fare that is affordable, especially today when there is concern about our economic future and the impact of raising the fare would be very real,” Mr. Spitzer said at a morning news conference.

The announcement means that the base subway and bus fare will remain $2 through the end of 2009. The authority had proposed raising the rate to $2.25.

The announcement comes as polls show Mr. Spitzer’s popularity at an all-time low, primarily because of his now-abandoned plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The governor had remained mostly silent about the fare plan since it was released in September, while the authority’s board faced angry crowds at hearings that drew hundreds of people.

Mr. Spitzer said that the timing of the announcement was unrelated to his political problems and that transit officials had received new revenue data in the past several days suggesting that the fare increases could be softened.

The decision was made Monday night, and the governor’s staff quickly arranged for a press conference yesterday morning.

“The $2 is staying constant, which we think is the benchmark that people look at and understand as the defining price,” Mr. Spitzer said.

Elliot G. Sander, the authority’s executive director, also hinted that one of the more unusual ideas proposed in September — charging subway and bus riders a lower fare to travel during non-rush hour periods — might be abandoned because of negative public reaction.

The authority will release a new fare plan in the next two weeks, detailing the revised increases. The authority board will vote on the plan on Dec. 19. If it approves the increases, they will take effect early next year.

The most recent budget forecasts indicate that the authority will finish this year with $220 million more than projected. That includes savings from lower-than-expected debt payments and other reductions in expenses, as well as slightly higher revenue because of an uptick in ridership and income from real estate taxes, officials said.

If the governor was hoping for an immediate political boost from his announcement, it may not materialize, at least based on initial interviews with riders.

That may be in part because most people do not pay the base fare; according to data collected by the authority, only about 14 percent of subway and bus trips are paid at the $2 rate. Nearly 50 percent of rides are paid for with either weekly or monthly unlimited ride MetroCards.

Thirty-six percent are paid for with pay-per-ride MetroCards, which give riders a bonus of one extra ride for every five rides purchased. It was not clear yesterday whether that 20 percent bonus would be changed.

“If they’re not hiking the $2 rates, there’s some way it will come out of our pocket,” said Ellene Wundrok, a real estate broker from Flushing, Queens.

“The tourists might benefit. They’re the ones that buy the $2 fares, not people who live in the city.”

Some riders suggested that Mr. Spitzer’s poor political standing had driven his decision.

“It’s been rough for him since he’s been governor,” said Joseph Rivera, 20, a graphic design student from Brooklyn. “He hasn’t had too much positive publicity lately. This might have been an attempt to step into a positive spotlight.”

But Mr. Rivera said that riders might react angrily once the authority announces what the increases in other types of fares will be. “This has the potential to backlash on him,” he said.

The authority declined to say how much it expected the average increase in fares and tolls to be under its revamped plan. But an analysis of its data suggests that the increase, in total, would be about 4 percent.

The authority’s original plan envisioned a range of possible increases. Most commuter rail fares were expected to increase no more than 8 percent, for example. Under one version of the plan, the cost of a 30-day MetroCard would have risen to $79, from $76.

Yesterday’s development also received a measured response from state lawmakers and transit advocates who have opposed the fare increase. Many of them have called on the authority to postpone any increases until next April, to give the state government a chance to come up with the money to prevent the increases.

“It’s a big step in the right direction, but it’s not the end of the debate by a long shot,” said Richard Brodsky, a Democratic state assemblyman from Westchester County, who has argued that the state should pick up a larger share of transit costs, rather than asking riders to pay more.

Also yesterday, Mr. Spitzer publicly promised, for the first time, to substantially increase state subsidies to the authority’s operating budget in the future. The authority’s financial plan calls for the state and local governments to contribute an additional $600 million a year to finance operating expenses, beginning in 2010.

“We are talking about a 2010 commitment of $600 million, shared with the city,” Mr. Spitzer said. “That is an enormous commitment that we have made, that I have made, and we will be good for.”

Copyright 2007 The New York times Company.

December 17th, 2009, 05:33 AM
M.T.A. Approves Big Service Cuts in Mass Transit

By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/g/michael_m_grynbaum/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Published: December 16, 2009

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (http://www.mta.info/) approved a punishing slate of service cuts on Wednesday that would amount to the most significant erosion of New York City’s transit system since its recovery from the ruinous days of the 1980s.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/12/17/nyregion/17mta_CA0/popup.jpgMichael Appleton for The New York Times
Jay H. Walder, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the agency needed to use public money more wisely.


The cuts represent some of the first concrete consequences of a fiscal crisis in New York State that until now had mostly been restricted to ominous words from politicians.

The authority’s board unanimously approved the plan — which includes eliminating the W and Z subway lines, reducing service on dozens of bus routes, and phasing out free fares for students — to cope with a $400 million shortfall in state financing that emerged in the past two weeks.

“The M.T.A. (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/m/metropolitan_transportation_authority/index.html?inline=nyt-org) has become the first state agency to face the music of the national economic collapse,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/richard_l_brodsky/index.html?inline=nyt-per), a Westchester Democrat. “This is the opening refrain of a full symphony of pain that’s going to hit other parts of the state next year.”

None of the cuts will take effect until the spring, and the plan’s more controversial elements have to be approved again next year, opening the door to months of public hand-wringing and political brinkmanship. Many public officials, for example, have vowed to preserve free rides for students. But any restoration of service cuts would probably require an influx of new revenue. That reality — accompanied by pressure from politicians, riders and parents — resurrected talk of ideas once thought politically untenable, like placing tolls on the free East River bridges.

The plan also brought a sense of déjà vu. A nearly identical slate of cuts was avoided earlier this year after a similar public outcry and a last-minute bailout from Albany legislators.

But officials insisted on Wednesday that this time was different. The state is staring at a $6.8 billion deficit, and Gov. David A. Paterson (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/david_a_paterson/index.html?inline=nyt-per) has already announced a delay on payments to schools and property owners.

“I don’t want to leave any impression that we’re going to magically find a set of service changes that don’t have a major impact,” said Jay H. Walder (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/w/jay_walder/index.html?inline=nyt-per), the chairman of the transportation authority.

Still, even the chairman acknowledged that in the murky world of municipal politics, there was always some wiggle room.

“This is the beginning, not the end,” Mr. Walder said, moments before the budget was approved 12 to 0. He later added, “We may be able to look at it, we may be able to do it a little bit better, and I, at least on a personal basis, would like a little bit of time and space to see how we might do that.”

In its current form, the budget would reduce bus and subway service during late nights, weekday afternoons and weekends. Service on dozens of bus lines would be reduced or ended, and the agency would cut transportation options for disabled riders. Although the W and Z lines would be eliminated, passengers on those routes would not be abandoned: both lines run along tracks served by other subway routes.

The authority also plans to lay off 700 workers, reduce management salaries by 10 percent and trim administrative costs. No fare increase was included in the plan, although a 7.5 percent rise is scheduled for 2011.

The plan to phase out free or discounted fares for students, which the authority said would eventually save $170 million annually, earned a particularly fierce reaction on Wednesday, even by the standards of an agency that is a traditional target of New Yorkers’ complaints.

“You sit here and bring anxieties to young children,” declared Councilman Charles Barron (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_barron/index.html?inline=nyt-per), as he addressed the board in the fifth-floor boardroom of the authority’s Madison Avenue headquarters. “What do you want them to do? Jump the turnstiles and turn them into criminals?”

Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, chastised the authority’s board for engaging in “a budget dance that is quickly becoming known as the hustle.” Another speaker compared the agency to Ebenezer Scrooge.

While the board members acknowledged that the cuts were painful, they directed blame squarely at a state government that they said had failed its responsibility to adequately finance a basic public service.

“This agency is in an abusive relationship with two deadbeat dads,” said Doreen M. Frasca, an appointee of Governor Paterson, referring to Albany and City Hall, which provide most of the authority’s financing.

“If the Legislature and the governor think these deep service cuts are not going to impact them in an election year, they are sadly mistaken,” said Andrew Albert, the chairman of the New York City Transit (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/new_york_city_transit/index.html?inline=nyt-org) Riders’ Council.

Earlier this month, the authority appeared confident it could end the year on steady financial ground. Mr. Walder, who began his job in October, had laid out a lofty agenda of high-tech arrival-time clocks and a computerized fare-card system.

That optimism vanished after Albany delivered a double-whammy: $143 million was cut from the authority’s budget, and revenues from a dedicated payroll tax — enacted in the spring to avert service cuts — came in $100 million below expectations. Last week, a court ruled that the authority must also pay big raises to its unionized workers.

So it was with some surprise that Mr. Walder found himself on Wednesday delivering a sober assessment of the authority’s shortcomings.

“In the two months that I’ve been here, it’s apparent to me that we don’t operate in a way that ensures that every taxpayer dollar that we receive is being used as effectively as possible,” he said. “In short, we need to take the place apart.”

While Mr. Walder said he would seek savings by trimming overtime payments and material costs, the authority’s overall finances remain at the whims of higher powers. The governor can choose to restore or withdraw funds in his revised budget next month. And swings in the housing market would play a big role, since the authority derives much of its revenue from taxes on real estate transactions.

Speaking to reporters this week, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/michael_r_bloomberg/index.html?inline=nyt-per) invoked his ill-fated congestion pricing (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/r/roads_and_traffic/congestion_pricing/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) proposal, which would have charged people to drive in parts of Manhattan, as an elegant solution to the authority’s troubles. The idea was echoed by transit advocates, even as the program’s supporters speculated that the mayor had simply been speaking off the cuff.

Asked about the plan on Wednesday, Governor Paterson said he had no specific plans to revive the issue next year.

“This parade of horribles puts pressure on Albany,” said Gene Russianoff (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/gene_russianoff/index.html?inline=nyt-per), staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/s/straphangers_campaign/index.html?inline=nyt-org), a riders’ advocacy group. “What Albany does in response to that pressure is hard to predict.”


Copyright 2009 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 24th, 2010, 05:38 PM
MTA has put up on their website a full list of service cuts that were voted on today:

Among other things, no more W train, no more M in Brooklyn or Manhattan, and several bus lines cut. The Q will go into Astoria though, which to me seems like an upgrade, not a cut (with the N going local downtown)

March 30th, 2010, 09:09 PM
There are also a few posts here (http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19218&page=7&highlight=transit) about the MTA cuts.

March 30, 2010

96th St. Station on the 2 and 3, 11:40 A.M.


This is my station, and this flooding is not unusual. As a matter of fact, it happens every time it rains. — Elisa Dhttp://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/96th-street-station-on-the-2-and-3-1140-a-m/

April 9th, 2010, 10:20 PM
For Whom the Bridge Toll Ends a Trip That’s Free


ZIP code 11693 in southeastern Queens spans two communities divided by water and a half-mile-long toll bridge. One of them is Broad Channel, a narrow island in Jamaica Bay with cottages on stilts and a quaint business district that has a nail salon, a bar, a pizzeria, a deli and little else.

If a car is vandalized in Broad Channel, the owner must cross the toll bridge linking the island to the Rockaway peninsula in order to file a police report.

The closest pharmacy, hospital, gas station, grocery store and bank are also on the other side of the bridge, and so is the rectory for the local parish, which was merged in 2008 with a parish in the Rockaways.

Broad Channel’s only Roman Catholic church has no resident priest and a limited Mass schedule. Broad Channel has a post office, located inside a variety store, but it does not offer post office boxes or sell money orders. It had a laundromat, but it burned down on Wednesday.

For its roughly 3,000 residents, daily trips to the peninsula over the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge are something of a necessity. The toll is $2.75 for drivers without an E-ZPass. But for the past 12 years, residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways have been allowed to cross it without charge.

But their free ride is about to end.

Sometime in July — the exact date has not yet been set — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will end a program that instantly credits their E-ZPass accounts with the toll imposed every time they cross the bridge. It is part of an effort to close the transit agency’s $800 million budget gap, which also includes eliminating subway lines, reducing subway service and scrapping some bus routes.

Under the new rules, residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways who have an E-ZPass will no longer be credited the $1.13 toll they pay each time they cross the Cross Bay Bridge, although they will not be charged if they make more than two crossings a day. The transit agency estimates that ending the program will bring in an additional $3.5 million a year. It is part of a package of cuts and other money-saving measures totaling about $93 million.

To many people in Broad Channel, a largely working-class enclave, it means paying to get to the doctor’s office, go to work, pick up a child at school or attend a meeting of the local community board. It is not uncommon for families to have lived there for generations; many of the residents are civil servants.

“It makes no sense to have to take out-of-pocket money to do a job I’m not paid for,” said Dan Mundy, 72, who volunteers on five committees at Community Board 14, which meets in Far Rockaway. “Am I upset? Yes, I’m upset. I’m also angry.”

He is not the only one. An online petition against eliminating the toll refund gathered 1,000 signatures in four days and drew some nasty comments, including one comparing the transportation authority’s board members to terrorists. At a public hearing in Queens last month, protesters chanted “no more tolls” as the board’s chairman, Jay H. Walder, who grew up in the Rockaways, took his seat.

Phone calls have been pouring into the office of Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer in Rockaway Beach. And among business owners in Broad Channel, there is a palpable sense of dread.

People who live in the Rockaways are “not going to want to pay a toll to buy a dozen bagels,” said Al Pisani, one of the owners of a bagel shop that is about to open just off the toll plaza on Cross Bay Boulevard, Broad Channel’s main roadway.

The Cross Bay bridge opened in 1939, and drivers have paid to traverse it ever since. (To this day, old-timers reminisce about how it cost just 10 cents into the 1970s.)

A spokeswoman for the transportation agency, Joyce Mulvaney, said the agency was obligated by the state to charge tolls at the bridges and tunnels it operates and then to use the money to maintain the crossings and subsidize mass transit services.

Only the Legislature can abolish the toll for everyone, and Ms. Pheffer, a Democrat whose district includes Broad Channel and the Rockaways, has introduced many bills hoping to do just that over the years, with no success.

Broad Channel has a wildlife refuge and 20-some residential blocks of mostly single-family home. It is so narrow that the water is visible on both sides from Cross Bay Boulevard. The A train stops there, but the ride to the financial district often takes 90 minutes. Someone who uses the bridge to get to work will now have to pay nearly $600 a year.

“A hundred bucks may not seem like much for some people, but around here, people live on a budget, so every dollar counts,” said Mr. Mundy’s son, Dan Mundy Jr., 46, a firefighter who lives in the house that belonged to his grandfather and is the president of the Broad Channel Civic Association.

Anthony Causi, 28, who moved to Broad Channel four years ago and owns an insurance agency there, put it this way: “We’re already paying more for everything, so I think of this as nothing but an unfair tax.”

There is another crossing on the northern end of Broad Channel, the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge, which connects the island to the Howard Beach section of Queens. It is operated by the city’s Department of Transportation, is at least a mile longer than the Cross Bay bridge and is free.