Mr. Fix-It

Monday, December 08, 2008

Richard Ravitch, principal in Ravitch, Rice & Co and former chair of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, reviews the proposals of the commission he chaired to get the MTA on sound financial footing.


Richard Ravitch

Comments [38]

Douglas from Queens

As a RESIDENT in New York City, I should NEVER have to pay to move from one borough to another through the PUBLIC roadways. I already have to pay to move between the Bronx and Queens, unless I go into Manhattan, then up to the Bronx, which adds a hell of a lot of time.

The ONLY subways that go between the Bronx and Queens go through Manhattan. Only two or three busses travel infrequently on the whitestone or throgsneck bridges. For people who need to go to the eastern part of the Bronx, the Whitestone/Throgsneck bridges are the fastest, but they are TOLL BOTH WAYS, and cars ONLY. That's a LOT of money to travel within MY city.

The current East River bridge crossings are public streets, allowing cars, pedestrians, and bicycles, to cross. I find it despicable that people want to charge me. How would you like it if you were charged to cross the street where you live or work, PUBLIC streets? A troll under the bridge.

Dec. 10 2008 10:38 AM
Merele from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Hi Brian:

What I wished you had asked him is if there is a toll on the bridges, will there also be neighborhood/residential parking permits for those of us who own houses and can't find parking because of all of those people who come from outside of our neighborhood and park on our blocks in order to ride the train into Manhattan?

Dec. 08 2008 02:57 PM
mc from Brooklyn

My understanding is that the East River tolls will require an EZ Pass or be incredibly inconvenient, like the congestion pricing. What about out-of-towners who have no EZ Pass? What about those of us who have no pass because we do not use credit cards and because we don't want Big Brother watching us all the time?

Dec. 08 2008 01:24 PM
Paul Landaw from Bellerose

Since my last comment was truncated for length, here follow two last questions for Mr. Ravitch:
Third: How much did your "Ravitch Commission" cost? How much were you paid, and for how many hours of service?
Fourth: When did you surrender your free E-Z Pass for life and subway and commuter rail free passes, issued (illegally, it turned out) by the MTA to all current and FORMER board members? How many E-Z passes di you posess, and how much toll usage did you accumulate last year? How much was the total usage of all former board members? (As a comparison, current Vice Chairman David Mack squalled mightily at having to surrender his NINE free E-Z Passes)

Dec. 08 2008 12:10 PM
Art from Brooklyn

Dear Brian, shame on you for the heavy handed bias towards tolls on the East River bridges, presenting Ravitch as a "hero" and a "champion" and soft-balling questions to him. You are generally much more successful at keeping your biases out of sight.

Dec. 08 2008 11:58 AM
Paul Landaw from Bellerose

You were a gentleman, as always, with Richard Ravitch. Your question about management bloat, and his dismissal of potential savings there shows Ravitch's true colors as just another political hack with no regard for the taxpayers' subsidy of his supping at the public trough.
First: When Ravitch was chairman of the MTA, there was one building containing the authority's central bureaucracy, on Madison Ave. Why, twenty years later, are there two buildings full of bureaucrats, the original, and the new one, at 2 Broadway? What about the cost overruns, use of mobbed up contractors, and the dismissal of MTA Inspector General Louis Anemone and his deputy over their investigation of this . What, Mr Ravitch, is the total number of employees in these two buildings, and how does it compare to the total number in central administration when you were chairman.
Second: The MTA's capital plans are always bogged down with delusions of grandeur and waste. Some shining examples are the transit hub at Fulton St. in Manhattan. How far behind from its planned opening is it, and how far has its cost overrun, Mr. Ravitch? As a Long Island resident, the MTA's foremost wish for the LIRR is 'East Side Access,' running trains into Grand Central Terminal through the 63rd St. tunnel (how late was the completion of that tunnel, and how much did THAT cost overrun?). Why build tracks from the Sunnyside Yards in Queens to the 63rd St tunnel, then dig to Park Ave, and build additional rail right-of-way for a mile down Park Ave to the terminal, as the LIRR cannot use the same tracks as the Metro North due to system incompatibilities, when the simplest solution is to build a station on the existing tracks, even if only the outside two of the four, which already run under 34th St. Building a station at 34th St. and Park Ave would allow easy connection to the Lexington Ave. subway at 33rd St. Why does the MTA never scale back its most grandiose plans, Mr. Ravitch?

Dec. 08 2008 11:56 AM
Wendy from NYC

We had a worker who voluntarily left his job to relocate out of state. He filed for unemployment, we responded with the facts of his leaving but his claims were not denied. Our small business' rates went up because of this claim!!!!

Dec. 08 2008 11:42 AM
milton from sunnyside

Agreed about MTA restructuring. I work with an Engineering firm with a number of former MTA employees, and they all agree, it's a political and bureaucratic mess.

Dec. 08 2008 11:38 AM
Alvin from Manhattan

The toll plan is all about politics. Why no tolls on Long Island roads (Southern State, Jackie Robinson, etc.)? How about putting a toll on the LIE where it goes from Nassau to Queens? Under the proposed plan, an NYC resident with a car will need to pay a toll to go between any two boroughs, except Brooklyn and Queens, because that's impractical.

Dec. 08 2008 11:28 AM
Robert from NYC

So that's his answer to the "bloat"? He doesn't know any organization that doesn't have problems of that sort? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, what a waste of time this was. He's of another time.

Dec. 08 2008 11:26 AM
milton from sunnyside

Thank you Brian for addressing that issue, although Ravitch did not quite answer the question.

There is still a huge area between around the Queens Brooklyn border with no train service and terrible bus service. Redhook Brooklyn has atrocious bus service. Even with the new Ikea which thankfully created a lot of jobs in a ignored neighborhood.

And stop calling it Riverdale, it's the BRONX. Only Queens names areas by name.

Dec. 08 2008 11:25 AM
Simon Lok from Manhattan

Mary, they'll never bring up a bankruptcy reorganization of the agency. Too bad these comments are pretty useless.

Dec. 08 2008 11:25 AM
NWP from Greenwich,CT

Mr Ravitch has trouble seperating the MTA from government in his own mind....

Dec. 08 2008 11:25 AM
self-employed in brooklyn from brooklyn, ny

pls ask him about reinstating the commuter tax.


Dec. 08 2008 11:25 AM
Andy from Brooklyn

where's Alan Hevesi now that we need him? Exposing the MTA's 2nd set of books disclosing a $500 Million surplus at one of those other times they were crying poverty. Remember how fast that got swept under the rug by the Republicans in power shortly afterwards? Does anyone remember how the MTA spent over $400 Million just to renovate their corporate offices down on lower Broadway ..... THAT INCLUDED $170 MILLION IN MYSTERIOUS COST OVERRUNS? As another poster here asked, where's the extra $$$ from the increased tolls on the bridges and tunnels that are supposed to go to mass transit?

Dec. 08 2008 11:23 AM
Carol Scudder from Brooklyn

I take exception to "people don't want to pay fare increases,tolls,etc." ... I personally don't mind paying, but resent paying more when it appears that the MTA cannot be trusted to do what they claim they will do. It's like a friend or relative constantly asking for a loan, then blowing it on who knows what, then asking for more.

Dec. 08 2008 11:22 AM
Robert from NYC

It is true, IT"S TRUE!! You say Queens and SI are close to the city center?

Dec. 08 2008 11:21 AM
Todd Rachtman from Brooklyn

I also like the bankruptcy idea.

Dec. 08 2008 11:20 AM
Robert from NYC

Sorry, there should not be any tolls between boroughs NONE AT ALL!!! Find bucks somewhere else.

Dec. 08 2008 11:18 AM
marcelo ronchini from queens

Why can't the MTA balance their own budget?
The have 8 million dedicated riders a day.
They get state and federal funding.
Maybe upto 16 million dollars a day based on rider fares.
And adverting money, try to find a subway map in a train car,
it is full of ads.

What happened when they got caught with two sets of books?

Dec. 08 2008 11:18 AM
Mary from Manhattan

Brian, please ask about the bankruptcy scenario that the other commenter (10) brought up.

Dec. 08 2008 11:17 AM
KO from Westchester

there's a disconnect between the critical thinking shown by comments and callers; wld be good if some written comments could be brought into discussions. what's the point of these comments - just to give the people a place to vent?

Dec. 08 2008 11:17 AM
milton from sunnyside

What's with this 2nd avenue line? Does everything have to be so Manhattan-centric? There are huge swathes of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx that are very poorly covered by train (and bus) service. Manhattan is already over saturated.
But nobody cares about those areas because there are no wasps and yuppies living there.

Dec. 08 2008 11:17 AM
Norman from NYC

Yankee Stadium and Mets Stadium got $1 billion in subsidies from NYC and NYS.

How does the subsidy for the MTA compare to that?

Dec. 08 2008 11:17 AM
James from Brooklyn

Yes, Sue! The MTA is a ridiculously bloated organization. It's dumb to have its directors beholding so much to Albany, when their number one interest should be NYC.

My friend, an urban planning student, interned at the MTA a few years ago. She found her office it so bureaucratic and inefficient, so full of silos and turf wars, that she spent much of her time doing redundant tasks like recopying bus schedules.

Another friend was a contractor for them, and he told me how they spent most of their time not doing their job, but buying SUVs for the MTA to hide the purchases in another budget line.

Everything I've heard about this organization suggests nothing but a giant money-wasting machine.

Dec. 08 2008 11:15 AM
Mary from Manhattan

I've read the guest's report and nowhere did it talk about getting rid of the ridiculous cost structure of the MTA, only about how to take more money out of residents of this state's pockets.
I for one am already on my way out of this state as are many others (fortunately my home was sold a few months ago). We just don't get any return for the extremely high tax rates we put up with in this state and our politicians think we are just a piggy bank to be tapped.

Dec. 08 2008 11:15 AM
Sharon from Bronx

Mr Ravitch speaks of improved outer borough to inner borough bus service. How about outer borough to outer borough bus service? It takes me 20 minutes by car to travel from the Bronx to Astoria, Queens, but 1 1/2 hours by subway or by subway combine with bus.

Dec. 08 2008 11:13 AM
antonio from park slope

Question: Has the the mta looked at what the planners in portland oregon have done in regards to transit? Light-rails and streetcars are much cheaper to build and maintain. I like the idea of the second avenue subway, but it is really a early 20th century idea. We need to look to the future.

Dec. 08 2008 11:13 AM
Simon Lok from Manhattan

What is wrong with a bankruptcy reorganization of the MTA? This is really the only way to get to the real systemic problems with the agency... the bad labor deals, expensive pensions and health benefits, the bad contracts, mismanagement, etc, etc. Without it, we'll only be revisiting this issue every couple of years.

Every small additional small tax and fee given to the MTA will only be swallowed into its budget and increased as we've seen time and time again. It needs to end sometime, and now is the time to put an end to it.

Dec. 08 2008 11:11 AM
Sue in LIC from Long Island City

Nothing new from Mr. Fix It? Same old: MTA is dysfuntional so charge the rider, charge the citizen. Why havn/t they addressed the root of the problem & demanded that the MTA be re- structured and rechartered?

Dec. 08 2008 11:10 AM
Hugh from Crown Heights

The reports regarding growth that Mr. Ravitch cites were produced before the current economic collapse.

If the collapse is as bad and as long-lived as some are saying (including respected moderate scholars like Robert Reich), the cited projections for New York will absolutely fail to materialize.

It's worth noting that the current population of the 5 boroughs is _still_ lower than it was 40 years ago. (Straightforward demographic fact.)

Dec. 08 2008 11:10 AM
Richard from Brooklyn

Hey Brian,

Could you sponsor a collection to send Councilman Liu, Borough President Markowitz and Senator Stavisky to Panderers Anonymous.
Staten Islanders pay the 'outer borough tax'.

Please ask Mr. Ravitch what he thinks of this idea.
NYC needs to start charging all users for the free on-street parking they enjoy.

Imagine permits required for any resident, and visiting, vehicle owner for overnight on-street parking. Web-enabled self-permitting.
Bills sent to non-compliance vehicle owners.
Out-of-state 'visitors' would pay more; this allows NYC & NYS & state insurance companies to recoup some of their losses to the practice of 'Rate Evasion'.

We might also consequently enjoy a reduced car population and less congestion, less pollution and fewer traffic fatalities.

How 'bout it?

Dec. 08 2008 11:05 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Forget the East River tolls.

Raise the gas tax

Dec. 08 2008 10:54 AM
Dave Ruby from Westchester

If tolls are established on the East River crossings, it would be a good time to consider two other toll changes:

1. Revise the westbound round-trip Verrazano tolls to eastbound (like the PANYNJ crossings). Trucks, with potentially highest tolls, now use Manhattan as a route to avoid this toll.

2. Consider discounted tolls on the Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck and possibly Verrazano to divert LI-NJ traffic from Manhattan

Dec. 08 2008 10:29 AM
michaelw from INWOOD

What about raising the rate on advertising or going to so far as corporate sponsorship of stations or whole train cars?

Can this advertising raise enough money to decrease budget gaps?

Dec. 08 2008 10:15 AM
Samuel from Tunnel

Dec. 08 2008 09:46 AM
Stanley Lenkowsky from NY, NY and Westchester

Where on website can I find story about recently discovered old subway tunnel under Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, and a tour of this tunnel during the past weekend. Reference to this on Monday, Dec. 8, ~6:50 AM.
Cannot find the story on your website.

Dec. 08 2008 06:57 AM
Stanley Lenkowsky from NY, NY and Westchester

brief mention at ~6:50AM, Monday morning, Dec. 8, of recently found subway tunnel(s) on Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn from the 1800s. Told to check out story at, but cannot find it. Where?

Dec. 08 2008 06:54 AM

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