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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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MTA’s Cash Grab

Election campaigns conclude but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) search for additional revenues never ends.

I truly believe Spinal Tap’s Gimme Some Money should be played at the start of the MTA’s Wednesday, Nov. 7, 5 p.m. public hearing at Farmingdale State College, Roosevelt Hall-Little Theatre, 2350 Broadhollow Road, in Farmingdale.  The MTA is billing the gathering as an opportunity to discuss 2013’s Fare, Toll & Service Changes. Spoiler alert: the MTA’s fares are going up; it is just a question of how much.

But I must give MTA chairman Joseph Lhota his due. He found well-placed people to justify the upcoming Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), New York City subway, bridge and tunnel fare hikes. They are slated to take effect in early 2013 unless the public objects vociferously to the MTA’s plans. I’m kidding, of course. This thing is a done deal.

The New York Post’s lead editorial on Wednesday, Oct. 24, (‘Paying for TWU Pensions’) stated that “when the protestors line up at the MTA’s upcoming public hearings on fare hikes, they might spend a little less energy yelling at [Joseph] Lhota, and a little more pondering how much they’ll be contributing to [Transport Workers Union] Local 100’s lush benefit plans.”  The TWU represents thousands of New York City transit workers and I’ve complained previously about their illegal 2005 strike and the outrageous 11 percent wage increase their members received over a three-year period as the economy collapsed. But this state allows for binding arbitration, and the TWU encountered a friendly arbitrator the last time their contract expired, so they won while transit riders and taxpayers lost.  

Rather than demonize public employee unions who take advantage of a flawed system to shake down the populace, The New York Post should ask its best investigative reporters to explore the following passage from the Citizens Budget Commission’s (CBC) just-released A Better Way to Pay for the MTA.

“This project [the Fulton Street Transit Center in lower Manhattan] is a new terminal for multiple subway lines at the existing Fulton Street subway station.  The initial plan was for completion in July 2009 at a cost of $750 million; the latest estimates are for completion in June 2014 at a cost of $1.4 billion,” the CBC report states.

To its credit, the CBC in that same study calls for the placement of more tolls on vehicular crossings into Manhattan to fund mass transit and discourage urban driving. But Carol Kellermann, the CBC’s president, ruined everything by downplaying that proposal, and instead highlighting what might as well be the MTA’s current talking points in a Monday, Oct. 22 letter to The New York Times. Ms. Kellermann’s first observation was that “transit riders pay less than half of the cost of their rides,” ignoring the fact that these same riders pay for the rest of their trip via various MTA taxes. She then had the audacity to write “the MTA policy of regular and predictable fare increases is preferable to the historic pattern of large irregular increases in tough times.”

Well, Kellermann does have a point. Governmental agencies overseeing projects which are five years late, and $650 million over-budget, need regular and predictable fare increases.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: