Just Another Day Of Pummeling The Public At The Public Authority
It wasn't long ago that the folks at New York's mismanaged and fiscally inept Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) -- the public authority charged with running the buses, subways, railroads, bridges, and tunnels -- cried poverty, and threatened chaos on the transpoetation front lest they get fare increases, toll hikes, and a payroll tax.
And so, John Q. Public, through the State Legislature (and other bodies that pass for representative government), caved, giving the MTA exactly what they asked for. Fare hikes, toll increases, and a payroll tax.
Ahh. The MTA would now be solvent. The Doomsday plan of cutting and eliminating service would be avoided. New York's straphangers and bridge crossers would be saved from the axe.
But that was yesterday (or was it the day before?).
Doomsday has returned with a vengeance, and the MTA claims, yet again, that it cannot meet its expenses.
Woe is us.
And so, as threatened, the MTA will curtail service, depriving Dashing Dans of seats, service, and security, and leaving us to wonder how in the heck we could allow an agency such as the MTA to run so amuck. [Which is about the only thing they seem to be able to run!]
The Solution Is In Dissolution
When a public authority ceases to act in the public good -- as the MTA has long failed to do -- if it cannot be rehabilitated (Lord knows, we have tried), it must be abolished.
The Legislature should immediately discharge the MTA Board, appointing an interim financial control board (Felix Rohatyn, where are you when we need you?) in its place.
The first act of the financial control board, as prelude to dismantling the MTA, is to fire the agency's presidents -- all 6 of them. [My God. There are more MTA Presidents than there are Sanitary District commissioners. Well, almost.]
Obviously, no one at the MTA, from Board to chief executives, knows how to add, subtract, audit, or budget, let alone how to run a railroad. The difference between surplus and deficit, to the MTA chieftans, is simply a matter of how much they can fleece the public for on any given day.
Next, arrange to pay back bondholders (use the salaries you've been paying to all those top execs, and let the MTA Board, Management Team, and past Board Chairs, borrow -- personally -- to close the gap on what the agency still owes).
Then, sell the subways, buses, trains, and bridges to the highest bidders, under the condition that they retain Disney to manage and operate the whole shebang. Now they know how to run a railroad.
It's high time we stopped rewarding incompetence with tax dollars!
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MTA board OKs controversial budget with service cuts
by ALFONSO A. CASTILLO / firstname.lastname@example.org
After getting an earful from transit advocates and elected officials, the MTA board on Wednesday unanimously passed an $11-billion budget that includes widespread cuts in service, including the elimination of several Long Island Rail Road trains, entire Long Island Bus routes, and some subway and city bus lines.
The plan, which does not take effect until July at the earliest, also looks to eliminate discounted MetroCards for students, and make deep cuts to paratransit.
Before the 12-0 vote, the agency's chief vowed to "take the place apart" to find savings in the future, including by cutting jobs and slashing overtime.
"Can we really say that the money that is sent to the MTA... is well spent?" MTA chairman and chief executive Jay Walder said. "We need to be able to say that. Unfortunately, I'm not able to say that we can."
Walder said that the MTA's 5,000 administrative positions are "too many," that the $500 million spent on overtime must come down, and that the 50 percent increase in the cost of construction materials since 2003 is unacceptable.
While Walder said there was not enough time to avoid the painful budget cuts, he expected the changes he proposes would result in significant and growing savings.
"We must accept that as we do that, there will be layoffs," Walder said. "We must not be afraid to eliminate work that is unnecessary. . . . The reality is that the majority of our costs come from labor."
Earlier Wednesday, transit advocates and elected officials blasted the MTA for forwarding the plan to fill a nearly $400-million budget gap at the expense of some of the region's most vulnerable commuters.
"How low can you go?" New York City Councilman Charles Barron asked the board before the vote.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said New Yorkers are tired of the MTA's "budget dance," which he said has continued even after New Yorkers were already forced to make sacrifices to pull the transit agency out of a massive budget deficit this year.
A bailout passed in May by the State Legislature raised fares and tolls by 10 percent, implemented a new payroll tax for employers, and hiked taxi and DMV fees. The rescue package was intended to avoid service cuts, but MTA officials announced earlier this month that they had recently discovered an additional $383-million budget shortfall.
"This tired old song isn't giving us a sense of faith and hope in the transit system," Stringer said. "When a crisis comes, you go for the most vulnerable. You go for our students. You go for people with disabilities... We should not be in the business of going after the next generation, because this generation can't run a transit system."
Several speakers, including Straphangers Campaign spokesman Gene Russianoff, urged the MTA to consider alternatives to cutting service, including redirecting a portion of federal stimulus funds and money allocated for the MTA's capital plan to the operating budget.
"I think this badly undermines your credibility. The riding public was told last May that there would be no service cuts when the Legislature bailed out the MTA. Riders held up their part of the bargain... But now they're threatened with almost the exact same list of service cuts again."
William Henderson, executive director of the MTA's Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, said that while he agreed with Walder that the capital budget should be protected, he said "all options should be on the table" to avoid the cuts. Henderson said that the cuts on the LIRR, which include the elimination of weekend service to West Hempstead and reducing weekend and afternoon off-peak service on the Port Washington line, would impact some 13,000 riders.
"The riders don't question that you need to take action to deal with the shortfall," Henderson said. "Instead they question the choices you have made."