September 24, 2008

Brooklyn11211 Blog: G to Have its Own Line Manager?

Neighborhood Threat
All subway lines to get a General Manager
September 22, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Gothamist reports that all subway lines will get a General Manager soon. Currently, the only lines that do have a GM are the 7 and the L. I’m not a daily L rider, but after our experience with the General Manager on the 7 train, I am overjoyed to hear that the G train will soon have a repository for our complaints.

The experiment calls for a general manager to take charge of each subway line and make “quick” decisions over train schedules, maintenance of stations, and riders’ complaints.

We are avid Mets fans and spend 30+ games per year out at Shea. In 2007, the MTA instituted Express service after the games, which (aside from the B61, but we’ve covered that) eliminated any temptation to drive to the game, not when we could be home in half an hour. However, in 2008, they instituted a “Super-Express” which initially only stopped at Woodside, Queensboro Plaza and Grand Central. While we just got off at Queensboro to wait for the B61 (as creepy as it is to do that), the boyfriend wrote to the GM, pointing out that eliminating the Court Square stop deprived riders of the connection to the G.

Three weeks later they wrote back to tell him that three other people also complained of the same thing, and that they had reinstituted that stop. (No, seriously. They even made announcements at Shea about it.) You can read about our adventure

If four people could cause that to happen on the 7 train, imagine what a band of determined Greenpoint residents can do to transform G train service.

Coming up: a bus driver reveals the complaint number of the Grand Street depot (after 6 buses went by on Friday OUT OF SERVICE)


September 16, 2008

MTA Mess Leaves G Riders Feeling Jittery

Groups Warn of Fare Hikes, Service Cuts and Fewer Transit Repairs, At Hearing by Governor Paterson’s Commission on MTA Financing

New York’s Economy, Environment and Mobility at Risk, Say Groups

The following is a press release from the Empire State Transportation Alliance, a coalition of which Tri-State is a member. For more information, contact: Gene Russianoff (917) 575-9434 / Michael O’Loughlin (917) 957-9106

Leading transportation, environmental and labor groups warned today that New York faced major fare hikes, and cuts in transit service and vital repairs unless new City and State aid is raised to address the MTA’s “titanic” financial problems.

The warning came at the first public hearing of the State Commission on MTA Financing. The Commission - appointed by Governor David Paterson and headed by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch - is charged with recommending ways to meet the MTA’s financial needs over the next ten years. Its report is due out by December 5th.

In July, the MTA officially announced major operating deficits in its $6 billion operating budgets for 2009 and 2010. The deficits are caused in large part by declining tax revenues in a bad economy; rising fuel costs; and the impact of years of massive borrowing to finance badly needed repairs.

The agency’s enormous debt has made the MTA the fifth largest debtor in the U.S., behind only three other states and New York City.

The MTA has also proposed cutting $2.7 billion from its five- year, $14.7 billion core capital program - nearly a fifth of its current efforts to bring the subways, buses and commuter lines to a state of good repair. The cuts include rehabilitating 19 fewer subway stations and $336 million in fans to clear smoke in emergencies.

The agency faces a shortfall of more than $17 billion in its 2010-2014 capital program.

“Years of borrowing as a result of the City and State’s disinvestment in mass transit are coming to a head as the price of fuel has drawn many new people to transit, with total ridership up in the last year by more than 5% on the subways. What’s more, the proposed hikes would come at a time when working and middle class New Yorkers are already struggling with a rising cost of living, and real economic hardship,” said Roger Toussaint, president of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100.

“New York’s subway, bus, and commuter fares just went up in March. But now the MTA says it needs to raise the price of MetroCards and commutation tickets again in July 2009,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. “Back-to-back increases that have occurred only once before in the 104-year history of New York transit.”

“Failure to make the necessary investments in the critical transportation infrastructure would severely hamper New York’s economic viability. We simply can’t allow this to happen,” said Kevin Corbett, co-chair of the Empire State Transportation Alliance.

“As a result of population growth and high energy prices transit and bus ridership are at all-time highs, and the MTA system is maxed out. Unless the state invests now to expand the system we will condemn generations of New Yorkers to elbow-to-rib congestion and an underperforming economy,” Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association.

“The MTA’s problem is clear: The City and State have inadequately funded mass transit for years. The formula for funding mass transportation should be changed,” said Paul S. White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

“Thanks to years of delayed investments in our transit system by the City and the State, we have an aging infrastructure and a staggering fiscal crisis,” said Richard Kassel, senior attorney and transportation expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Quite simply, we won’t meet our future economic, environmental, or sustainability goals if the City and State don’t make transit investments a top, top priority.

“Every New Yorker has a stake in better transit — and more transit,” said Andy Darrell, Vice President at Environmental Defense Fund. “With gas prices high and our population growing, it’s time for innovations like bus-rapid-transit that can be built quickly. And it’s time for innovative, fair financing — including road pricing — to put our transit network on firm financial footing. The economy and the environment can’t wait.”

“Will already beleaguered riders be abandoned to cope with these difficulties without help, with higher fares and a big downturn in fixing our old system? Or will Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and our legislative leaders fight for transit? The next several months will tell,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.


September 8, 2008

NY Times Editorial on MTA Budget

September 8, 2008
Editorial: The Riders Pay

New York City’s mass-transit system is deteriorating and desperately underfunded. The politicians know this, but they are still providing far too little in the way of financing. The result is that the system’s users, many of them already suffering from tough economic times, could be stuck with the bill.

Neither the city nor the state is paying its fair share, despite what they claim. With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority facing a budget gap of nearly $1 billion next year, direct subsidies from both governments last year totaled about $600 million, not much more than what they were a decade ago, according to the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office. Adjusted for inflation, subsidies have actually declined, saddling riders with an ever-increasing burden.

The main problem is that New York’s state legislators have failed to put a dependable source of financing — like congestion pricing — in place. Transit has been forced to rely on fluctuating taxes from real estate and other sources and, increasingly, rising fares.

A one-two punch of back-to-back fare hikes and reduced service seems likely if New York’s elected leaders don’t approve significant new subsidies or a solid revenue-generating plan.

The M.T.A. has said it needs the city and state together to contribute an additional $300 million next year. State lawmakers say they are awaiting the recommendations of a commission led by Richard Ravitch, expected after the November elections. Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists that the city has already done its part, contributing $1.2 billion last year.

But Mr. Bloomberg gets to his $1.2 billion figure by including not only the city’s direct subsidies, which are what really matters, but also an assortment of other kinds of payments that do not directly benefit the M.T.A. They include $344 million in interest payments on money the city borrowed for previous transit aid.

A safe, clean and reliable mass-transit system is not only environmentally sound; it is also essential to New York’s economy. We know the city and state have their own huge, looming budget gaps. But both need to dig deeper to keep mass transit moving.


September 7, 2008

MTA Funding Hearings Scheduled

From our friends at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign:

Ravitch Commission Hearings Scheduled
MTR has learned that the 13-member Ravitch Commission, established by Governor Paterson earlier this year and chaired by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch, has scheduled a round of public meetings for later this month. The Commission is charged with recommending “strategies to fund MTA capital projects and operating needs over the next ten years” and has a December 5, 2008 deadline.

The meeting dates are September 15th in Manhattan, September 22nd in Long Island, and September 24th in White Plains.

For New York:
Monday, September 15th
Eisner-Lubin Auditorium, NYU Kimmel Center
60 Washington Square South
Session 1: 10am-12:30pm
Session 2: 1:30pm - 5pm

Testimony is by invitation only. Public comment can be sent in writing to Ravitch Commission, 633 Third Ave, 38th floor, New York, NY 10017. So mail in your comments!