This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Harris J. Klein answers questions about New York's transportation facilities.
Hosted by Marvin Sleeper
Panelists: Larry Barrett of the Washington Square Journal, Bob Feinberg of the Hunter College Arrow, and Martin Birmingham of NYU.
Questions: A fare increase could happen as early as tomorrow. There is nothing the city could do to make bus lines profitable; the people of New York City are entitled to the service. The public is being submitted to brainwashing by the bus line operators. All offers to buy city bus lines would cause a decrease in the benefits to workers. Rumors of subway lines that would run to the suburbs. All New Yorkers are entitled to a Second Avenue subway now. It would cost approximately 500 million dollars. Would be financed in the same way that other public benefits are financed - tax payer money. Traffic Commissioner Wylie's suggestion that traffic on Avenues should be one way; the buses object, but "the people come first."
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71924
Municipal archives id: LT6334
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Mr KLEIN It's proposed elevated railway from the suburbs to midtown the are practical How efficient is this city's transit system why can't the city run its course lines at a profit for the answers to these and other questions listen now to the campus press conference to transcribe program in which college editors interview prominent personalities in the news here to introduce the panel and their guest is your moderator Marvin sleeper award winning reporter for The New York Journal American Good afternoon and welcome to another edition of campus press conference the target for our questions today is Harris J. Klein he's a former member of the New York City Transit Authority there's a returning gateman on campus press conference Mr for Mr Klein last June when he was still serving as a transit official he was before microphones and came up with a story that made headlines the next day of course at that time he was on the inside looking out the situation is reversed now but as a private citizen he's been able to sit back and take a long hard look at the city's transit and traffic aches and pains of course he has the eye of a professional because he's an attorney he's a specialist in transit problems and he's been doing just that sort of job for about twenty years now so let's get down to cases and find out how he sizes up our time strands of problems at the moment in the studio to question this decline are Larry Barrett of the Washington Square Journal Bob Feinberg of the Hunter College in Iowa Martin Birmingham New York University How about the first question from your Larry Mr Kline during the past week was it on bus fares have been very much in the press how near are we to a possible but fare increase at the present time. We are so close to a citywide fare increase at the present moment that it could become a reality and in actuality tomorrow or less the public has alighted to bring the force of public pressure to bear in order to forestall a contemplated their arrival Why can't the city run its bus lines at a profit at the private lines I think you're making out. Pretty well while the city the private lines of all receive the cream of the so-called crop they have the main thoroughfares while a city bus lines as a conglomeration of many bus lines who are here for and many years ago were in bankruptcy with the public of course is entitle to service and no bus lines should be put out of business or service discontinued merely because it is bankrupt and the city therefore took over many of the so-called bus routes and the private lines took over the city's routes will result in a fare increase would you repeat that question would transfer of the city bus routes to private lines result in an increase fare. Well if no one has come forward with a proposition to purchase all of the city bus routes what they did do is to offer to purchase those routes mainly in Manhattan which are now earning a profit do you think would be a good idea for the city to get rid of these fast winds that are showing a profit no. You think it's a good idea to hold out until a private company would take over both the profitable and the unprofitable line that would be the only way in which I only manner in which. The city should entertain a proposition when you think that's likely I got very much whether any private company at this time would take over all of the city bus routes you must bear in mind that the Staten Island division loses approximately a million and a half dollars a year the Brooklyn division loses more than a million dollars a year the Queens division is operating at a loss and the only profitable one is the Manhattan division which is earning a small profit of oh I would say approximately two hundred thousand a year do you think there is anything that either the city or private company could do to make all these bus lines overall profitable not a gender vidual one but overall make progress nothing that the city or any private company could do to make the overall bus system now owned and operated by the city profitable however you must remember that the people of New York City are entitled to service. And the transit system is not there actually for a profit it's actually it was created to serve the needs of the public and that's the position that people should look upon the entire situation is not true that bears in New York City are generally lower and lower than other big metropolitan areas on the contrary the fares in New York City are the highest in the world you must bear in mind that in addition to the so-called direct fare which the average citizen pay there is an indirect fire namely the debt service they capital improvements which add up to approximately seven cents a ride so that if we took it took the direct fare plus the indirect there of seven cents of a ride which the average citizen pays in form of general taxes we would find that New York City on Fortunately the citizens pay a total fair of twenty three cents per ride and that is the highest in the country decline is there anything we can do to cut that down I advocated many many. Things in my so-called final full report to the people when I left the transit authority I advocated a reduction in the overall fare namely to ride for a quarter the subway ride and a bus ride a combination of twenty five cents a ride you think you are before you mention that. This is going to happen we're going to have an increase in bus fares unless the public is alerted What do you mean by that and Mr sleeper of the public is now being subjected in my opinion to a program of brainwashing by the bus companies to bring us the public to that mental point where we will accept a fair boost without too much complaint we don't know it but I fear that I sell up. Our bus ride in public is now in the works and has been for quite some time. What were you to believe what specifically Well there's been a chain of circumstances within the last six months which leads me to believe that the program was on its way you'll recall that the so-called kill report prophesies a twenty cent. Subway ride within a five year period at the same time no word was mentioned nothing was said of the so-called profits that the private bus lines were earning they merely talked of the so-called twenty cent future fare that was then followed by a report again by Mr Keil who incidentally is and is paid by the private bus industry in this city and that report indicated that traffic was so congested that private cars were so play went way violating the parking lot is that something should be done and incidentally in that report and a small part of it was the fact that bus lines have lost a great deal of revenue due to illegal parking and when they talk of illegal parking and losses of revenue they once again sort of lead you want to believe that they are not earning a sufficient return on their investment. That for example was followed once again by another survey that's the recent survey the traffic survey at which the again is sponsored by the private bus interests and once again I'm quite sure that they will conclude that the bus lines are losing money while they are losing passenger revenue because of the congested traffic situation what do you think of all this in my opinion is part of a plan to increase the bus there I might also remind you that one private bus line has already asked for a temporary fifteen cents a that is the third adding a railroad system which operates though the buses in the Bronx and alongside and the railroad so that the pattern has already been created do you think they're going to go. As long as I have a voice to a like the people I hope that they won't of course you must recognize that this matter will eventually come before the Board of Estimate they will have to be shown facts and figures as to the profits or losses are private bus lines and I'm hopeful that the Board of Estimate will turn down such a request but what will happen if the private bus lines insist they cannot operate at a profit on their current conditions you advocate the three take over the back line mere insistent systems is not enough they must have proof that they're not operating at a profit are one of a proven not operating at a profit you can get of the city take them over and run him out a lot at present fares on a grand the fare increase the figures which I have available at this moment indicate that they are now all operating at a substantial profit so that your question is something which is problematical they are not now operating at a loss they are operating at substantial profits and other words around only vital to a price they're not entitled to more of a raise not less likely or not and I don't practice nineteen forty one. The private companies have only lost in two principal years that was a believe their nineteen forty nine or nine hundred fifty and fifty one there were two years in which they lost money at that time the bottom estimate gave them a race but since then all private bus lines operating within the city of New York and I say all are now operating at a profit that's a long as they continue to operate a profit no groundwork should be countenanced to allow them to ask for up for the race you mentioned sell out of the public who selling odds are I would say the private bus lines are the public bus lines run less extravagantly Are they less economically run and the private bus lines they certainly are but is there any bus lines that more privately operate on no I service thirty bus lines are more costly to walk breaks than the private bus line while I'm in it well we have a labor situation which is quite important I might remind you that the private bus lines have a forty hour week the city bus lines have a forty hour week but because of so-called fringe items the employees of the city bus lines only work approximately thirty three hours a week while the employees of the private bus lines operate work thirty seven and a half hours a week that is quite a substantial difference in payroll alone how did this come about that this came about as a result of political abuses over a period of years by home by political officials in past years who gave and gave and gave so long as it wasn't their own money as long as the people's money. Well is there anything you can do to alert the people to this so that perhaps we can get a more equitable. Agreement between both the city employees and the city on bus company I pointed out in my report to the people in June of one nine hundred fifty five approximately one month prior to my terminations as a member of the transit authority and which report I pointed out that New York City while it had the most passengers per vehicle miles its costs for a vehicle mile were greatly in excess than those of any other city in the United States including the private bus operators in New York City I for example I'll give you one example an employee of the New York City Transit Authority gets the following so-called fringe benefits he gets a one half hour paid lunch period he gets to fifteen minutes coffee breaks a day he gets twenty five minutes a day for cleanup time he gets approximately five minutes a day on the average for a check cashing all this is included in the so-called forty hour week and it's not a code in the private contract that is not now translated to productive a day where a private operator requires any one man to do the job the authority that is a New York City transit or sorry requires one hundred men so that there's a difference of twenty men for every hundred employees now you can understand why The New York City Transit Authority fare is fifteen cents and it shows a loss while a private bus line is nineteen cents and shows a profit Well any bus line that border city road would probably have to meet the terms of the present labor contract when the notion. When they have an awful lot of trouble with the operator the mechanics Well unfortunately and the offers that the city has now for the purchase of the Manhattan bus lines the so-called prospective purchasers do not intend to take over the contract that the city has with its men as a matter of fact there are very few men that they want to take along with them all they want is the bus routes and nothing else turning to rapid transit that's a crime there been several proposals made recently. Which would entail very large and costly projects such as a second their new subway that would run into Westchester and buy some kind of rail set up that would bring commute in from other suburbs and what do you think of is a liar here talk to two different subjects the people of doing York City are entitled to the immediate building of a second ad with a subway all one need do is to drive a ride in that Lexington Avenue express one morning and to see those people treated worse than cattle one would find that there's an immediate need for that Second Avenue Subway regardless of the capital investment required on the other hand when you discuss the other theory that is the plan which was recently given to the vice they commission that is the in trial entire state system that is New Jersey and Westchester that is something so costly and so so so wide in scope that's beyond the realm of imagination to realize how much money it would take to build that system Mr Norton who suggested the plan incidentally said that it would take a billion and a half Dallas. According to my figures it would take closer to three billion dollars to build that type of operation whatever big and I might also point out that the plan which Mr Norton came up with is nothing new it's been in existence and part of a published report which is older than twenty five years and that's the one includes the new elevated railway track to midtown that's right on the N.C. The Second Avenue Subway has something in the near future unfortunately the past chairman of the transit authority or better still the so-called majority of the Venice are they felt that their Second Avenue Subway would not be a reality for ten years I disagreed with that premise and I still disagree I think that the people in New York City are entitled to that Subway now what happened with your project cause I believe a project of that nature the Second Avenue Subway would cost approximately five hundred million dollars How would you finance it I would finance it in the same fashion as schools parks hospitals and other such public benefits things are financed mainly from taxpayers like you know that you would sell bonds or set up any sort of authority that would it would be taken because while it would be part and parcel of the New York City Transit Authority and you realize that all of the capital improvements does not come out of revenue it comes out of capital improvements which is paid for by city funds Wasn't that supposed to run into Westchester or at least on