Thursday, December 18, 2008

MTA Votes on Doomsday Budget

Proposal Labeled “Draconian” by CEO Sander

By Patricia Adams

“Today we fulfilled our requirement to adopt a balanced budget within the constraints of existing resources, and those resources are simply not great enough,” said MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger after the transportation agency held its vote at a hearing on Wednesday morning.

“I have called this budget draconian, severe, and extremely painful, and it is all of those things,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. But the agency maintains that it is trying to inspire support at the federal, state and city levels and relieve the burden from the ridership.

The proposed rate hikes inspired virtually unanimous angst among riders and advocacy groups. “We are looking at least a $2.50 base fare for subways and buses, and $104 for a 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCard,” Gene Russianoff, a lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign of the New York Public Interest Research Group, told the board. “That’s an amount I associated with a Broadway theater ticket, not with taking subways and buses.”

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer recently faced off against the agency, joining with other elected officials and residents, concerning the proposal to remove a rebate program for residents currently exempted from what remains the only intra-borough toll in the city-- the Crossbay Veterans Memorial Bridge – it connects the zip code, post office, community board and police precinct shared by Rockaway and Broad Channel.

“Obviously we are going to continue to fight to get the stream of revenue to the MTA so that the people of this city and state will not have to face this burden. We also have time to fight to hold this rebate program in place.” Pheffer went on to say that this “doomsday” budget will only hold up if all three levels of government involved fail to deliver a fiscal infusion to the ailing agency.

Part of the deficit was made up by a 23% increase in the revenue yield from fares and tolls beginning in June 2009. This increase is projected to generate approximately $670 million in 2009. Hearings will be held beginning in January on the fare and toll increases and service cuts as required by law.

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