Comptroller: No Fare Hike 'Til '08
The MTA's finances have been in the news. First, there was the MTA turnaround on service cuts for 2007 (see last week's blog). On Tuesday, September 26, New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi put out a report on the MTA's financial outlook. Here's our take on it.
STATEMENT ON STATE COMPTROLLER'S REPORT
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Today's report by State Comptroller Hevesi brings welcome short-term financial news for the MTA and its riders - along with tremendous long-term challenges.
For the short-term, it's good to hear that Hevesi predicts the MTA will likely end the year with $140 million more than the agency has projected. This is largely due to the Comptroller's estimates of real estate tax collections. We are heartened by Hevesi's conclusion that total MTA revenues "would be sufficient to delay the proposed fare and toll increase ... until April 2008." We agree with the Comptroller that now is the wrong time to raise fares, with record ridership and in the midst of a gas crisis.
For the longer-term, the State Comptroller lists some steps the MTA - along with the new Governor - should consider in addressing looming deficits for 2008 and beyond. These include:
- not diverting $307 million in state general fund aid and dedicated taxes away from the MTA, as Governor Pataki has proposed;
- using $450 million of the 2005 surplus - now in an off-budget account - for MTA operations; and
- reconsidering future bonding for MTA capital programs, especially the pace of system expansions. (The Comptroller notes that three major expansions/September 11th-related projects are collectively $2.4 billion over budget.)
The Comptroller also notes that the MTA's debt service on the bonds for earlier capital programs will soar from $1 billion in 2005 to $2.1 billion in 2012 and "is placing extraordinary pressure on the operating budget."
The riders will need all the help they can get from the next Governor and state legislature to avert a huge jump in the fare and drastic service cuts in 2008 and beyond.
Posted Sep 27 2006 by Gene Russianoff
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Service Cuts Down To Defeat?
What a difference an afternoon makes! Wednesday morning's New York Times warned that transit officials were weighing 20 million in cuts in subway and bus service. By Wednesday afternoon the MTA Chairman announced "his opposition to service reductions or fare increases for MTA subways, buses and commuter rails in 2007."
You will find below the two statements we put out on Wednesday. One was in the morning and denounced the cuts; the other from the afternoon, hailing the MTA's promise of no cuts and no hikes in 2007.
Don't worry; we won't let down our guard.
1. Wednesday, September 20th, 10:00 a.m.
STATEMENT ON SUBWAY AND BUS CUTS
September 20, 2006
Incredibly, transit officials are proposing to seriously cut bus and subway service at a time of a growing ridership!
The Straphangers Campaign calls on the candidates for governor, Mayor Bloomberg and legislative leaders to speak out on behalf of their constituents against these harmful cuts.
Today, there are 91,000 more subway and bus riders each weekday compared to last year, with the gas crisis getting many more in the region to consider taking transit. But MTA New York City Transit is proposing new standards for off-peak periods that will mean less generous bus service on 65% of the agency's 187 local bus routes and midday waits on ten out of 23 subway routes.
How do transit officials do it?
They are making their standards "less generous" for providing service. The new standards - called loading guidelines and policy headways - would result in fewer buses and trains, more crowding and longer waits. And this with subway and bus ridership levels not seen since 1970!
For buses, their old loading guidelines used to call for running buses frequently enough so that - at the most crowded point - they would never carry more than 80% of a "fully seated load." New guidelines will mean a standard of 100% of a seated load in 2007. The number of passengers at the route's busiest point will go from 28 (on a standard bus with 37 seats) to 33, with an increase in waiting time of two to three minutes.
These bus loading guidelines were already adopted by the MTA in 2004, but are now slated to start in January or February 2007. They will automatically take effect in next year's budget unless the MTA Board votes to go back to the previous guidelines. The guidelines apply to the off-peak period, outside the rush hours (6 a.m. - 9a.m., 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.)
Things will get worse in 2008. The new guidelines call for a further cut that year with a standard of 125% of a seated load, going from 28 now to 40 passengers and 9 standees per standard bus! Waits will go up by three to five minutes from current levels.
For subways, waiting times would increase by two to four minutes during midday weekdays, as "policy headways" increase. These cuts are detailed in a PEG ("Program to Eliminate the Gap") in the proposed 2007 budget. The bus cuts are not detailed anywhere in the 2007 proposed budget and are considered part of the base budget.
2. Wednesday, September 20th, 3:00 p.m.
STATEMENT ON PROPOSED TRANSIT SERVICE CUTS
September 20, 2006
There should be no fare hike or service cuts in 2007, says MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow that.
That's the right policy to take at a time that transit ridership is reaching levels not seen since 1970. There's been an increase of 91,000 riders each weekday between 2005 and 2006.
If the full MTA follows as expected, the cuts will be rescinded and riders will no longer face longer waiting times and more crowding.
The subway cuts are contained in the proposed 2007 MTA New York City Transit budget. That document called for $5 million in less subway service.
By our count, there would also have been at least $38 million in cuts to bus service. In 2004, the MTA adopted new guidelines governing crowding levels that would have resulted in the cuts. But these guidelines were deferred for 2005 and 2006 due to the agency's large surpluses. The guidelines would have taken effect automatically in 2007, but we assumed these guidelines will be rescinded or again deferred in the 2007 budget.
Posted Sep 21 2006 by Gene Russianoff
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As the fifth anniversary of the September 11th tragedy passes, many riders are very concerned about possible terrorism in the subway. Terrible attacks have taken places in subways around the world, including Japan, Moscow, Madrid, London and Bombay.
The MTA has come under criticism from what is widely seen as a slow response. Such criticism is fair. But it is also fair to note that the MTA has had little help from Washington, where the Transit Security Administration has focused predominantly on air travel. In addition, it's not easy to adapt existing security technologies to a 100-year-old system designed to be open and porous.
Among the steps undertaken by the MTA since 2001 are that it:
* hired 200 additional police;
* worked with the city to flood the subways with a police presence;
* launched the "See Something, Say Something" campaign;
* signed a now $280 million contract with Lockheed to install
surveillance cameras and detectors;
* "hardened" access to many transit facilities;
* retrofitted subway gates with "panic bars" to allow quicker exit in emergencies; and
* established better communication and coordination with other
There have been some steps backwards. These include New York City Transit's on-going efforts to eliminate train conductors on many lines, as well as subway booth clerks.
What security steps would you like to see?
On a personal note, I work three short blocks from the World Trade Center and was displaced from my office for six weeks. I feel great pride in how well the subway system served the city in the weeks and months after September 11th. My hats off to the tens of thousands of transit works who help keep New York moving in tense times.
Posted Sep 13 2006 by Gene Russianoff
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Transit Resolutions For The "New Year"
Dear riders -
It's the start of the new school term and a return to work for many after Labor Day. So I thought it would be a good time for some transit resolutions for the "new year." If you have any to share, please e-mail back.
Here are some hopes that:
- the lingering summer heat in many subway stations cools off soon;
- proposed cuts to subway service that would seriously increase crowding not be adopted, as now proposed for the 2007 year's budget;
- plans over the next two years to eliminate train conductors on 5 lines - 7, J, L, M, and N - continue to be effectively blocked;
- the new governor finds the resources to avert a threatened fare increase in the fall of 2007; and
- the MTA gets a fair price for its valuable property on the Far West Side of Manhattan (The New York Times reported on September 1st that the "Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the rail yards on both sides of 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd Streets, received an appraisal this week that pegged the value at $1.5 billion....That is three times the $500 million offered by the Bloomberg administration in a surprise bid in July.")
Posted Sep 6 2006 by Gene Russianoff
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