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Thread: Roll Back MTA Fare to $1.50, says Judge

  1. #16


    MTA fare hike, service cuts likely


    October 4, 2004, 7:26 PM EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. #17
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    New York City


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

  3. #18
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Jackson Heights


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

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

  4. #19


    This post moved from a duplicate topic.

    mtago away wrote:

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

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

    Here's the link:

  5. #20


    October 25, 2004

    In New York Transit Crisis, a Cash Bind Many Foresaw


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  6. #21

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