Just In: MTA Doomsday Budget Approved – Get Ready for Sharp Fare Hikes, Service Cuts and Thousands of Layoffs


mta-trainThe Metropolitan Transportation Authority has voted 12 to 1 today to enact a stiff series of fare hikes and service cuts as a result of a legislative stalemate in Albany.
The board voted reluctantly in favor of the ‘doomsday’ budget to prevent the transit system from going broke.
The MTA voted on the fare hikes to close a $1.2 billion gap. Under the plan, a 30-day MetroCard will cost $103, up from $81. Fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North would rise an average of 23 percent, and tolls also would go up on the MTA’s bridges and tunnels.Board members have called the scenario of fare increases and slashing bus, subway and commuter rail cuts a disaster, but say because of Albany’s inability to come to the rescue, drastic measures were necessary.

“It’s a true crisis that cannot be solved by us without causing great pain to the riding public,” said H. Dale Hemmerdinger, the chairman of the board, at the beginning of the meeting.

“This is an extremely difficult day for all of us. Our 8.5 daily million customers, 70,000 men and women who work for the agencies of the MTA, and anyone who cares deeply about vitality and the future of the city and the region,” said Elliot Sander, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the MTA.

“The fare increases and service cuts that the board must approve today are the only major tools Albany has given the board to operate the transit system and keep those operations in the black. There are no other moves in the board’s playbook,” added Sander.

The microphone was passed on to a parade of more than a dozen speakers, including City Council members, M.T.A. employees, and public transit advocates.

Today’s vote comes after months of warnings that tough times would force hard choices.

“We’re in the process for this budget of cutting at least 5 percent of the managers at each of the agencies,” said MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin.

In total, the new budget calls for cutting 1,100 blue collar jobs and about 1,000 white collar jobs. And while all of those pink slips will save several hundred million dollars, they still leave the MTA deep in the red.

211 bus and subway managers are getting the heave ho, along with 32 at the Long Island Rail Road, 18 at Metro North and 21 people at MTA headquarters.

That’s in addition to about 750 other administrative positions the agency plans to eliminate.

“I think the MTA clearly needs to reduce their own internal expenses further, before socking it to the riders and the passengers,” said City Council member John Liu.

But the MTA disagrees.

“The bottom line though is that you could fire every single administrative person who works at the MTA’s seven agencies and it wouldn’t cover this single year’s deficit,” countered Soffin.

A single year’s deficit stands at $1.2 billion. And because legislators in Albany could not agree on a rescue plan, the MTA intends to slap commuters 25 to 30 percent fare hikes on subways, buses, and commuter trains.

There are also efforts to find new sources of revenue.

To get extra money the MTA is trying to sell ads on everything that moves – trains, buses, even turnstile arms.

They’re also willing to sell naming rights to subway and train stations, but nothing, it seems, will stop the board from voting big fare hikes and service cuts.

“Right now I’m disabled and I have four children and can’t afford it. It’s no good,” said straphanger Mario Cazeras of the Bronx.

“Two-fifty a trip. Do the math on that. Who’s it hurting? It’s hurting the people who are going to work, the people who don’t have the money,” added Stuart Aion of Caldwell, N.J.

The fare hikes were declared “unacceptable” Tuesday by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He said he stands ready to pass a plan to save the MTA.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged commuters unhappy about the looming fare hikes and service cuts to complain to state lawmakers.

“When you see what’s going to happen to your commuting costs, you should call your state legislators and say, ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,”‘ he said Tuesday.

Advocates for public transit planned a protest outside the MTA board meeting. One group organized a “call-a-thon” for angry riders to call state lawmakers.

Wiley Norvell, spokesman for the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said the event Wednesday morning at Union Square was going well, with a lot of riders “fuming” after getting off packed or delayed trains.

The MTA has 8.5 million daily customers. New York City Transit, the division that operates subways and buses, carries a 7.4 million passengers each weekday, maintains 27 subway lines and runs 243 bus routes.

{WCBS-TV/Elisha Ferber-Matzav.com Newscenter}