New York to Slash Transit Service, Student Passes
This story on the MTA’s cuts, which we’ve been following here at Atlas, will be in Friday’s Wall Street Journal:
The decision by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to sharply cut services to close a nearly $383 million deficit is the latest sign that the state will operate under harsh fiscal constraints in the coming year.
The proposed cuts, which would include shutting down two subway lines and slashing night and weekend hours on a system that operates around the clock, will be aired at several public hearings this winter. A final vote is planned in the spring by the board of the MTA, which manages transit systems in New York City and surrounding areas, including Long Island.
The measures are the latest sign of the fiscal woes in states across the country. The MTA said it must shrink service because New York lawmakers, facing a budget deficit, slashed annual subsidies to the MTA by $143 million. In addition, a recent court ruling ordered the authority to pay $541 million in wage increases to unionized workers over three years, according to an MTA spokesman.
In recent weeks, New York Gov. David Paterson has urged state lawmakers to close a current-year budget gap of $3.2 billion. “We have no money at the moment. We have delayed payments across the board,” said Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for the governor.
The MTA chairman said the authority must share the blame. “In the two months that I’ve been here, it has become apparent to me that the MTA doesn’t operate in a way that ensures that every single dollar we receive is being used as effectively as possible,” said Jay Walder, chairman since September, at Wednesday’s board meeting. “We must rethink every aspect of our operation to permanently reduce the cost of running this system.”
The transit cuts come months after the MTA faced a budget shortfall last spring and proposed drastically reducing service, only to receive an 11th-hour bailout from the state. But the measures meant to generate money — a payroll tax and sales tax dedicated to the transit budget — fell short by $149 million in projected revenues, an MTA spokesman said.
The MTA’s finances suffered more strain last week, when a state court ruled the MTA could not delay large raises to its unionized work force, starting with the first payout of $91 million in 2010.
The MTA’s plan also calls for laying off 700 workers, reducing management salaries and phasing out free and discounted fares for students, which has sparked widespread opposition. The latter proposal would eventually save the MTA $170 million annually, a spokesman said. No fare increase was called for. A 7.5% fare increase is scheduled for 2011, on top of a roughly 10% rise earlier this year.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said the city’s four representatives on the transit board would vote for the budget “because we really don’t have any alternative.”
Gene Russianoff, a lawyer for a riders’ advocacy group, the Straphangers Campaign, urged the MTA to instead close its deficit with $91 million in federal stimulus monies. The stimulus funds have been committed to repairs and maintenance, said Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman.
From The Wall Street Journal.