Photo credit: @julesdwit.
A not-for-profit media organization supported by people like you.
The state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, a Democrat, has subpoenaed 18cartons of budget documents from the authority and forced three of itstop budget officials to give lengthy depositions about theirbookkeeping. He vowed today to continue that inquiry to its conclusionno matter what the authority’s board decides on Thursday when it voteson the fare increase.
Both Mr. Hevesi and the New York City comptroller, William C. ThompsonJr., called on the authority’s board to postpone the vote Thursday untilMr. Hevesi’s office completed its review of the authority’s books.
MTA debt is what is driving up the fares of the MTA. They have beenrolling in public financed doe through out the fat years and now theymust face the reality of a deep recession and a declining City economy.And it is LONG time for New York City to get its SUBWAY BACK without theinterference of Albany. It is time for the Queen of Hearts and to stopthe lies that our current state legislator is somehow responsible forthe MTA’s crimes. If a massive fair hike comes on March 25th, it will besquarely the fault of the MTA. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS. It is high time toend the MTA
March 6th 2003:
The decision of transit officials to propose substantial fare increasesto close a budget shortfall has not ended a bitter political fight aboutwhether the public should be given more information about theMetropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget.
October 25th, 2005:
New York’s city and suburban transit network faces enormous,fast-growing debts and budget deficits, with no clear plan foraddressing them. It raised fares last year, plans to raise them againnext year and warns that it may do so again in 2006.
This is not a surprise to people who monitor the MetropolitanTransportation Authority. The current situation was predicted four yearsago by, among others, former top transit officials, fiscal watchdogslike the Independent Budget Office and the Citizens Budget Commission,the state comptroller, business groups like the New York CityPartnership and transit advocates like the Regional Plan Association andthe Straphangers Campaign.
The financial problems, critics contend, are the direct result of morethan a decade of policies by New York State, New York City, and theauthority, which operates the city’s subways, buses, bridges andtunnels, and the Metro-North and Long Island commuter railroads. Inparticular, they point to a $17 billion capital maintenance andexpansion program adopted four years ago that was broadly denounced atthe time as a fiscal time bomb.
It is all part of the authority’s proposed five-year capital improvementplan for 2005 to 2009, sent to Albany last week for approval. Making hispriority clear, Peter S. Kalikow, the authority’s chairman, said hewould be willing to sacrifice the highly publicized expansion projectsif it meant protecting the $17 billion for the existing system.
“This is the minimum number that we will accept,” he said Wednesday atthe authority’s board meeting. “It’s the minimum number to keep thesystem running.”
It will be up to lawmakers, however, to wrangle over how to come up withthe money, or if they even can.
The problem is a familiar one for the authority. Similar hand-wringingaccompanied the passage of the authority’s current $19 billion capitalprogram for 2000 to 2004. In the end, much of that program was paid forby bonds, repaid out of riders’ fares. But that has left the authorityfacing a mountain of debt. Payments coming due on that debt are at thecore of the authority’s struggle with its operating budget.
As Gene Russianoff, a staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, atransit advocacy group, put it, “Their credit card is maxed out.”
Authority officials have made clear that issuing more debt, paid for byriders, would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
“I don’t think there’s any question that more money is needed for thesystem’s operation and for upkeep and maintenance,” said Doug Turetsky,a spokesman for the Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan cityagency, on the financial quandary. “The question is where thoseresources are going to come from.”
On the authority’s shopping list: more than $17 billion in systemupgrades and replacement of old equipment, $500 million for securityimprovements and several billion dollars for expansion projects,including the building of the first phase of the long-awaited SecondAvenue subway and connecting the Long Island Rail Road with GrandCentral Terminal.
On April 3rd, 2000 the Times published this little tidbit:
In the last month, government and private analysts have developed astriking consensus that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’sfive-year, $16.5 billion capital improvement plan is adisaster-in-waiting, built on a mountain of borrowed money, that wouldforce a major fare increase.
They say the crush of debt would cripple the authority’s ability to keepNew York City’s subways and buses and the commuter railroads in goodrepair, and would make the financing of future capital plans nearlyimpossible. The plan would require by far the largest sale of municipalbonds in history, more than $20 billion.
October 3rd, 2004:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is projecting budget deficitsof more than a billion dollars in the coming years, and another round offare increases and service cuts appears imminent. But now transportationauthority officials want to spend even more money to continue tomaintain the system, and even the authority’s critics are hard-pressedto fault them for it.
The trouble is, no one has quite figured out how to pay for theimprovements.
The mayor is trying to exert influence on an obscure state panel thathas the power to deny the $230 million in financing that theMetropolitan Transportation Authority needs for the new rail cars. He isalso considering going to court over the issue if necessary, accordingto a senior aide to Mr. Bloomberg who spoke only on condition ofanonymity.
Then in December of 2004 the Times published this:
Four years ago, the governor of New York and leading state legislatorsgave permission for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to pay offold bonds by borrowing $14 billion, creating a steep pile of new debtfor a transit system filled with ancient structures, middle-agedequipment and little money to replace them.
Today, with the M.T.A. facing short- and long-range financial crises,the public benefit of that decision remains a matter of vigorousdispute.
Yet between 1981 and 1991 over 16 billion dollars was spent on MTAcapitalization. And that barely made a dent. The 2001 capital programborrowed money for a 1.1 billion dollar expansion of the LIRR to reachGrand Central Station. Who from the city would want this at the cost ofa 2 dollar fare hike and service shutdowns? But these proposals gothrough the Capital Program review board which the Mayor is outnumberedby statewide office holders 3 to 1. And that is how we get this shoveddown our throats. And when horse trading erupted over the 2nd avenuesubway for the LIRR expansion the MTA responded with a two tier bondprogram that brought out older less expensive dept for a greater newbond act over a longer time. Predictions at the time were that thismassive debt would cause fares to skyrocket up to $4.00. But that is notthe MTA’s problem. Its just the problem of the poor guy schlepping towork or ibringing his family around to the museum from Brooklyn and Queens.It was known as a fact that this program would put massive pressure on MTA’sfinances between 2005-2009, just as it has. And the program in 2000 wasdecried by everyone in the know about the MTA including the then formerMTA chair Robert R. Kiley and Gene Russianoff, the same lawyer pushingnot for east river bridge tolls, and who both wrote jointly at the time,“In sum, it is our conclusion that the plan not only does not fund newcapacity, it threatens the ability of the MTA to continue its State ofGood Repair program for this and future plans.”
Need to see more? In February of 2004 the Mayor took the MTA to court tostop it from funneling monies for the Subway to buy new Metro North cars(NY Times: Feb 26th, 2004). The New York Times wrote then:
In 2003 the MTA attempted to side step the whole process when it createdYET ANOTHER corporation in their authority with the creation of theCapital Construction Company with responsibility for overseeing systemexpansion projects for all MTA companies and managing their bonds. The latestplan for the MTA is for the state to do the same for the bond driven capitalprogram through a charter. So then we’ll have yet another organizationcompletely disenfranchised from the City’s electorate or even sensitive tothe operations or fare burden, and which can raise fares and taxes withoutany over site whatsoever. Oh, and for those not watching, you should notethat the latest Richard Ravitch plan calls for the elimination of publichearings for fare hikes.
Don’t you love the Metrocard. Fares can be raised at will with a few keystrokes.
n 2003 the MTA attempted to side step the whole process when it createdYET ANOTHER corporation in their authority with the creation of theCapital Construction Company with responsibility for overseeing systemexpansion projects for all MTA companies and managing their bonds. The latestplan for the MTA is for the state to do the same for the bond driven capitalprogram through a charter. So then we’ll have yet another organizationcompletely disenfranchised from the City’s electorate or even sensitive tothe operations or fare burden, and which can raise fares and taxes withoutany over site whatsoever. Oh, and for those not watching, you should notethat the latest Richard Ravitch plan calls for the elimination of publichearings for fare hikes.
Enough. We can’t take it any more. In 2000 the MTA tried to ram part twoof its capital budget program down our throats, by permitting the MTAmore borrowing than it could ever afford, about 1.6 billion dollars withanother 2.2 billion dollars of pork for upstate highways and roads. Itwas rejected soundly by the voters of New York State. But the MTA islike a fly. If you swat it away, it just comes back. In 2005 the MTAlaunched an “education program” for yet another statewide referendum,this time worth 2.9 billion dollars in funding. In 1995 the New YorkTimes reported that State lawmakers were aghast at the 4.5 billiondollars that the MTA would need to borrow between 1997 and 1999. That’sright, we’ve been playing this game for a very long time. And the majorinfrastructure we got was the retirement of the perfectly usable RedBird Cars on the IRT, and the completely unnecessary electronic signalsystem for the ‘L’ train. Is it that hard to safely run trains on aline that has exactly one outbound and one inbound track that we hadto pay almost a billion dollars for it? And with looming service cutbackswas it worth it? And the station rehabilitations that were necessary,did we get them? Well? Maybe, sort of. They cost us way to much andtook way too long according to Joseph Rappaport of the StraphangersCampaign “All we’re getting in station rehabs is what we were alreadypromised, and we’re getting it three years late and having to shell outmore in the fare to get it.”
First of all, every citizen of this city needs to come to understand thebasic facts of the MTA. It is an independent authority chartered underNew York State Law which has no over site. It has an independent agenda.That agenda benefits the MTA, and is not designed to benefit NewYorkers. The MTA is not our friend, nor does it respond to our needs,and most of all it does not respond to public pressure or scrutiny. Itborrows money and leaves the bills for the taxpayer and straphangers. Itsubsidizes suburban growth, and leaves the bill for the inner cityworking class. It buys glitzy toys, like underground radio systems, aconnection for the LIRR to Grand Central Station along with the buildingof a new level at the terminal, it buys a new extension of the 7 train tothe Javits Center, new cars with digital signage, elevators, and electronicbillboards, it builds a completely uneeded new station complex at FultonStreet to bribe politicians who can't figure out how to rebuild the WTC,but it ignores basic safety and traffic needs like switches and steel rails,station maintenance, and subway cars with enough signs to know whattrain your hoping on without needing to look over the platform with thetrain arriving. And then they spend hundreds of millions of dollars topreach to us. Don’t run up the escalator, Don’t lean over the platform(so then how do we know what train is coming since they have removedmost of the side car signage), don’t walk between cars (which was reallyuseful at stopping over crowding for nearly a hundred years before someidiot decided it was too dangerous), pick up your trash, and give yourseat to a pregnant women.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority is the single biggest threat to thelong term stability of New York City. It has been standing on the throatof this city for decades, squeezing the economic life blood from thistown. It has proven to be an irresponsible steward of this citiestransportation network. It has political muscle and protection unlikeany organization in our government. Unlike a private enterprise, it hasno need to constrain its budget for the purposes of profitability.Unlike a government organization, it escapes any kind of voter over siteat the ballot box. We are all victims of the MTA and its reckless use ofgovernment funds, and misguided priorities. This people, the voters ofthe City of New York, can never give the MTA enough funds to satiate itsendless budget. Every dollar they acquire, they budget for completely,and then they spend one more. The MTA must die if the City of New York isto live.
First of all, every citizen of this city needs to come to understand thebasic facts of the MTA. It is an independent authority chartered underNew York State Law which has no over site. It has an independent agenda.That agenda benefits the MTA, and is not designed to benefit NewYorkers. The MTA is not our friend, nor does it respond to our needs,and most of all it does not respond to public pressure or scrutiny. Itborrows money and leaves the bills for the taxpayer and straphangers.
Speaking of words over/misused, do you mean "lectern" when you say "Podium."This often repeated transposition bothers me almost as much as the term, "Tarmac" for an airport's pavemant. Tarmac is an old roadbed system hardly appropriate for a 747.As usual, I love your show.
Why is MTA immune from job cuts -- every other business that is doing poorly lays off workers.
MTA is a bottomless pit -- how many MTA execs does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
the MTA shouldnt be given a single cent more and rights to more taxation and tolling until they get their own costs under control and that means union sacred cows must be put on the table as well. NY'ers cant afford to throw more money down a hole.
I wish someone would address the gridlock we will get in downtown Brooklyn, not to mention LI City with the tolls. Maybe it's not about the money.
Mismanagement by the MTA should not be rewarded. Overhaul personnel -- No honest business has two sets of books. The money is being siphoned. There is no difference here from Wall Street.
The only constituent without lobbying power in this sorry mess seems to be the riding public. This is totally pathetic.
the albany triumvirate is not on the same page yet, what a surprise.
Please stop saying "Draconian" if I hear it one more time it's going on my list of overused words to be expelled from the english language along with "Mavrck"
Email addresses are required but never displayed.
Brian Lehrer leads the conversation about what matters most now in local and national politics, our own communities and our lives.
Subscribe on iTunes
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio
stations, broadcasting the finest programs from NPR and PRI, as well as a wide range of award-winning local
programming. WNYC is a division of
New York Public Radio.