Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tag, You're It!

MTA Board Members -- Past And Present -- Get Free Ride (For Life)

Imagine never having to pay a toll on any bridge, tunnel, or roadway in the EZ-Pass system, or riding the subways FREE, for the rest of your natural days, without having to hop the turnstiles?

Well, as it turns out, members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Board -- current and retired (perhaps even deceased), who are supposed to serve without compensation (yeah, right), apparently have as a "perk" free passes to ride the rails and buses, as well as free use of the EZ-Pass. for life.

Now, with all the toll hikes and fare increases these folks impose upon us mere mortals, isn't it nice to know that these folks -- presumably serving "the public good" out of sheer benevolence -- don't have to share (let alone, feel) our pain?

Why, these officially-sanctioned toll-evaders are no better than those special taxing district commissioners, who use their official SUVs (paid for by and gassed up on our dime) for personal errands, and collect lifetime health benefits for a no-show, part-time job.

Of course, we never held New York's public authorities, vestiges of the era of power-brokering laid upon us by Robert Moses, in very high esteem.

They saddle us with debt, are beyond legislative oversight, and, as is custom and practice, answerable to no one other than themselves.

Imagine if MTA Board members -- past, present, and future -- had to pay their own tolls and carfare? Why, they might even entertain a decrease the next time tolls and fares come up for a vote!
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From The New York Times:

M.T.A. Board Will Fight for Its Free E-ZPass Tags
By William Neuman

For years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has given its board members free passes to drive across its bridges and tunnels without paying tolls and to ride the subways, buses and commuter railroads without paying a fare. And when the board members retire, they are allowed to keep the passes for life.

On Wednesday the authority said it will go to court to defend the practice in the face of a challenge by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who said that giving E-ZPass tags to board members violates a law that they must serve without compensation.

Mr. Cuomo sent a letter to the authority this week calling for it to rescind the passes after The Daily News reported that 21 current board members and 37 former board members have free E-ZPass tags. Some have multiple tags, including the former chairman Peter S. Kalikow, a millionaire with dozens of cars, who reportedly has eight tags.

The authority’s chairman, H. Dale Hemmerdinger, said on Wednesday after a meeting of the board:

The practice of providing board members free access to the system they oversee dates back at least to the 1950s. We believe the M.T.A. has acted in a manner fully consistent with the 1992 law referred to by the attorney general. The practice was not questioned when the law was passed and has not been legally challenged in the 16 years that have ensued. But given the newly stated view of the attorney general which is contrary to the M.T.A. position we are going to seek a declaratory judgment and allow a court to determine whether or not this constitutes compensation. We have never seen it that way and we don’t see it now but were going to let a court make this decision.

Mr. Hemmerdinger said the authority would ask for a ruling on both the free E-ZPass tags as well as the practice of giving board members a free ride on subways, buses and commuter trains.

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