Number Crunch

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

John Liu, NYC Councilman (D-20th, Queens) and Josh Robin, NY1 reporter, discuss the MTA budget crunch, East River tolls and congestion pricing, and if Albany can overturn the term limits extension.


Comptroller John Liu and Josh Robin

Comments [40]

Sahar from Chinatown

What if the subways were not 24 hours? How much would that save the MTA? I would rather there be no subway service, maybe between 1am-5am, than the service decreases the MTA is suggesting now.

Boston, Paris, London, etc. do not have 24 hour rail service, and they somehow continue to function.

I feel like there should be some type of forum where the MTA users can voice their opinions for service decreases or fares increases they would be willing to accept, because of the current economy and a chronic mismanagement of budget by the MTA. How come people, the NY legislature and the heads of the MTA, who do not use these services are the sole deciders of what happens?

Nov. 21 2008 12:35 PM
Leo in NYC from SoHo

36 - Leo from Queens. (Hi other Leo)

I think the issue with accountability is that by putting it at the State level (mostly) accountability is totally diluted with hundreds of other issues and the votes and priorities of the rest of the state. How can you tell if someone didn't vote for you because you underfunded the MTA or because you didn't support gay marriage or whatever. And since the state's transportation priorities may conflict with NYCs...

Nov. 11 2008 12:04 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

amen,leo. if we're going to experience something "draconian", then we have to consider some alternative. maybe that's why the mayor's office is finally gearing up more support for cycling commuters here--they know the mta is a lost cause. boycott!

Nov. 11 2008 12:03 PM
hjs from 11211

HOME RULE for NYC. we pay the bills for the state why are those upstaters telling us how to run this city. 3 men in a room can't run albany why are they putting their noses in our business.

Nov. 11 2008 11:56 AM
Leo Queens from Queens

Mack from Queens: The Mayor CAN fire the big shots he names to the MTA board. The governor can be lobbied to replace his appointments to the board with competent people.

The problem is that WE continue to define the MTA as 'This independent entity'. It IS a government agency run by political appointees of the governor and mayor. OUR problem is that we DO NOT hold the mayor and governor accountable.
it was evident during the EzPass freebie revocation in the summer that the board members see these appointments as entitlements and freebies and that they could care less about public transportation

Nov. 11 2008 11:56 AM
jh from Brooklyn

"We the people are also suffering financial woes too and yet we're the ones who are bailing out these institutions public and private and are drained practically dry."

So true, Robert. At least with the presidential campaign I felt as though we could all make a difference, but in this case I feel completely helpless. Every year it seems we are almost admonished by the MTA, warning of fare increses as if its OUR fault.

Nov. 11 2008 11:53 AM
derek from NYC

slightly off the discussion: but has anybody noticed that the MTA supposedly has a RIDER REPORT card yet they make NO effort to make it available to riders. What a farce. If they made the report card available at stations--all stations--the city, state, and MTA might wake up to the fact that it is a very poor service they provide currently. ANd that comment is in ADVANCE of all the cuts. 2nd point: bad harbinger is the very noticable increase in graffitti.

Nov. 11 2008 11:50 AM
Randall Richards from Connecticut

A question for Mr. Liu: I've read that many municipalities around the country, including the MTA, have gotten caught up in the current financial crisis by trying to earn large amounts of returns for their operations by borrowing money from an Irish subsidiary of a German bank to leverage investments in exotic bonds similar to the infamous Credit Default Swaps we now know about. They have lost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, and I suspect that these fare increases are designed to shore up these fiscal mistakes, NOT because of the more pedestrian escalating costs that would have occurred anyway.

Any comments?

Nov. 11 2008 11:48 AM
John from Manhattan

Tam, you think that's a wreck? Try manhattans park place stop the stairwells are covered in urine, with blind alleys and turns to the subway track.

Nov. 11 2008 11:47 AM
Cory from Earth

Please. Where are you going to put 20 lane toll plazas? For the 59th street bridge, put them on 2nd Avenue? Queens Boulevard? The whole thing is ridiculous.

Nov. 11 2008 11:47 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

Where are you going to put the toll booths? Spare me!

Nov. 11 2008 11:46 AM
Bobby G from East Village

George- According to the MTA website the budget for the East Side Access project is $7.2 Billion. My point is that we can't afford it and with all the other capital projects, deferred maintenance, fare increases. service cuts and debt the MTA has.

Nov. 11 2008 11:46 AM
James from Brooklyn

Everything I have heard about the MTA - both in media and through friends/relatives who have worked with them - indicates that this is one of the most poorly run organizations in the state. I had a friend getting a city planning masters who interned with them. Because of some ridiculous bureaucratic rivalry in the building where she worked, she spent much of her time copying bus schedules by hand, since so and so wouldn't provide them in any other form. This was her experience.
Then I knew someone who did construction contracting with them. He said he found the project incredibly wastefully managed, and he personally spent much of his time not building anything, but buying SUVs for them (they wanted to conceal the vehicle costs inside the construction budget line).
Then there's the amount of debt the MTA many hundreds of millions do we pay each year just to service it?

Nov. 11 2008 11:45 AM
Ally from Manhattan

You mean to tell me there's no fat in their budget, that they MUST raise my fare?

Nov. 11 2008 11:45 AM
Tam from brookyn

What about scheduled renovations to subway stations? Will they be eliminated? I use the Smith/9th St (G/F) all the time. The station is on an aging and rusty elevated structure over the Gowanus Canal. It's a WRECK, a collapse waiting to happen.

Nov. 11 2008 11:45 AM
Robert from NYC

We the people are also suffering financial woes too and yet we're the ones who are bailing out these institutions public and private and are drained practically dry. This financial disaster we face seems to bring out the greed even more whereby all these institutions come out strong asking for help. Why don't the CEOs cash in their stocks and donate the millions and billions that they have sitting off-shore to save their own companies. The MTA in particular tells us one day they have a surplus and then after weeks or months of silence another story comes out that they have a deficit. Well what the hell happened to that surplus over the few weeks/months!? Why doesn't anyone question that and ask that?

Nov. 11 2008 11:44 AM
Bob from nyc

So basically people who make very little money will be saddled with the expense of bailing out these fat cats.

Nov. 11 2008 11:43 AM
nick from NYC

Can you ask your guests to discuss the idea of taxing non-NYC residents who work in NYC, to fund NYC infrastructure?


Nov. 11 2008 11:43 AM
Mack from Queens

If NYC was somehow able to fire the grossly overpaid mismanagers, a subway fare hike would be unnecessary.

Nov. 11 2008 11:43 AM
Leo Queens from Queens

To Councilman Liu: There has been a steady reduction in subway services since 2002 with the exception of the opening of the 63rd St tunnel. During the past 8 years there has been a HUGE BUBBLE in Real Estate and Utility prices which meant that taxes that are SPECIFICALLY taxes to fund the MTA have exponentially increased the revenue to the MTA.
Where did the money go? - Why wasn't part of these huge revenues go to reduce the debt of the MTA? WHy isn't there an investigation by the Mayor and the city council as to why monies in the STate budget that were supposed to go to the MTA were diverted to the general budget?

Nov. 11 2008 11:42 AM
Mark from New York

I understand the difficulties in the present fiscal environment - however, we need to examine whether management at the MTA is being too extravegant for things such as real estate & cars. I remember during the last strike seeing a luxury Mercedes sports coupe with MTA police department plates parked at Grand Central (license plate was MTAPD1). Has anyone looked at such things?


Nov. 11 2008 11:42 AM
Mike from NYC

I guess the "bailout" flood gates are open (to mix metaphors). Everytime someone wants money they can say, "Hey you bailed out Wall Street, so....."

Nov. 11 2008 11:41 AM
Leo in NYC from SoHo

By blending capital improvements and operations, they pass large costs on to the ridership that we haven't agreed to. And because we are dependent on the system it ends up being coercive, regressive and exploitative.

Nov. 11 2008 11:41 AM
Leo in NYC from SoHo

15 - George

It would allow us to set priorities and finance the system responsibly. There is no reason that the MTA cannot simply run its system safely and reliably using fares and other revenue. If, on top of that, we want to finance a 2nd avenue subway or whatever, we can float a bond or go to the state of the Feds. But I want to to able to set those priorities separately. Right now I don't want to pay $4 to ride the train so that we can build a west side 7 extension or a 2nd ave. line or whatever.

Nov. 11 2008 11:37 AM
Ian from Brooklyn


Nov. 11 2008 11:28 AM

"Put the mayor in charge of the MTA and decouple general operating funding from capital improvements so that there are separate mechanisms for prioritizing both, which would help to control fares."

How would that help control fares? Someone still has to pay for this stuff. You mean like Railtrack in England? The biggest disaster ever.

Nov. 11 2008 11:19 AM

GM and the MTA can't be compared. GM spent years making cars that people didn't want, selling SUV's to make money. The MTA may not be well managed, but like education, it still needs more money. GM gets more subsidizing than the MTA does, even without this proposed bailout.

Nov. 11 2008 11:16 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Thank you Sheldon Silver for killing the plan to receive Federal monies for mass transit. We're all grateful that you put one upping Mayor Bloomberg before the citizens of NYC. So let's call the fare increases the Sheldon Silver Ego Tax.

Nov. 11 2008 11:14 AM
Leo in NYC from SoHo


How can we possibly demand accountability and transparency from them if we can't vote the bums out when they screw up? At least for NYC Transit? This is an agency that the city is completely dependent on and yet is is controlled by political hacks in Albany.

Put the mayor in charge of the MTA and decouple general operating funding from capital improvements so that there are separate mechanisms for prioritizing both, which would help to control fares.

Let New Yorkers control the trains and busses they ride every day!

Nov. 11 2008 11:10 AM
Shudra Smaimki from Queens

Tourist Fare: $10 per anyone with a camera or wearing white shoes with shorts.

Nov. 11 2008 11:10 AM
Shudra Smaimki from Queens

Do not raise the fare, fire a bunch of executives.

Nov. 11 2008 11:09 AM
Shudra Smaimki from Queens

The MTA mismanagers, and New Yorkers bleed out their paychecks, with another fare hike. GM couldn't plan well, now they can't pay their workers and taxpayers have to assume their payroll. When will the CEO heads of INCOMPETENT and INEFFECTUAL organizations, see THEIR heads roll so we can see THEIR pain?????????????????

Nov. 11 2008 11:06 AM

Michael W-

Why do you want to raise the "tourist" fare? Don't we want more tourists there? Don't you think the MTA would charge more for ads if they could? I don't think you've really thought those plans through.

Nov. 11 2008 10:56 AM


The Access Project is about more than just getting to Grand Central, although that would cut transit times for commuters by twenty minutes or more. It's also about getting more trains into and out of the city because the Penn Station tunnels can't handle any more capacity. Plus, the 7 Billion you talk about includes other huge projects.


Why can't the MTA do some of those things? They have money to do it. The Olympic committee spent money out the yazoo trying to get the Olympics here, and much of that went to lobbying.

Those Southern cities that you talk about have worse traffic than NY. They need public transit too. They just didn't do it back when Americans built their infrastructure and had cities they were proud of. NY has something to build upon. Those cities would start from scratch.

Nov. 11 2008 10:53 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Bronx are all part of New York City, so no tolls on the East River Bridges. Additional monies should come from the City and State taxes that we pay.

Nov. 11 2008 10:43 AM
michaelw from INWOOD

Number one get rid of Elliot Sander he is grossly incompetent.

Number two raise the daily fare and weekly all you want because these are the tourist fares. So gauge them.

Do not touch the monthly.

Three raise the price of advertising through the roof. Make it very expensive to advertise in the subways and on buses however strip all the barriers to advertising.

this is enough

Nov. 11 2008 10:28 AM


>>.Why is it, historically, that public transportation can't lobby Washington as well as the banks, or as some companies, like Monsanto, do?<<<

Its the same reason why small businesses and you and I can't lobby. We don't have he millions to spend on lobbying. The MTA can't do junkets to Bermuda for the politicians.

Plus let's look at the places that have an extensive system: NYC, DC, SF and I guess Chicago and Philly. These are very blue areas of the country. The GOP has had control of the gov't for a while and feel no need to throw these areas of the country a bone.

Secondly, population growth has consistently shifted from the Northeast, older cities to the Southwest etc.. they don't have the population density issues we have hear and thus no need for public transportation. As a result, the things we experience in the Northern/Northeast part of the country, are unique (except for LA and Dallas/Ft. worth).

Nov. 11 2008 10:27 AM

It makes no sense to me that the US Government can cough up 150 Billion for AIG, which essentially is meant to be spent on NOTHING, and not come up with any money to help the MTA. The MTA has thousands of employees and serves millions a day. Who is the AIG bailout helping? We can't even see where the money is going.

As the city council woman said, a small fraction of the AIG bailout would cover all their costs and support their development projects.

Why is it, historically, that public transportation can't lobby Washington as well as the banks, or as some companies, like Monsanto, do?

Nov. 11 2008 09:55 AM
Bobby G from East Village

The MTA can free up a tremendous amount of money by canceling the $7.2 Billion (before cost overruns) Pataki era boondoggle called the East Side Access Capital Project that would connect Grand Central to Penn Station.

This expenditure is entirely unnecessary and unaffordable. To get from Grand Central to Penn Station take the S Train (Shuttle), the most on-time efficient line in the system, and one stop on the 1, 2 or 3. I have done it many times with no problems.

Let's demand prudent financial management of the MTA.

Nov. 11 2008 09:54 AM
zahid from Brooklyn, New York

How about Free Public Transportation paid by a $ 10.00 Toll for each Water Crossing to Manhattan?

Nov. 11 2008 02:33 AM

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