The MTA’s Perfect Storm, and Where Our Fare Money Is Going

September 26th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

A list of all impacted subway lines, courtesy of the Daily News website (click to enlarge.)

Another weekend, another round of construction for the MTA.

Anyone who’s even remotely  familiar with the New York City subway system knows it has its flaws. Besides the occasional “track fire” and “train traffic” causing a delay on any given trip, the weekends for some have become synonymous with shoddy service. Express trains running local, local trains running express, shuttle buses, and service suspensions have just become a way of life. But if Saturday and Sunday service disruption is an expected nuisance, call the weekend of September 25th “the perfect storm”: a grand total of 18 subway lines were scheduled for maintenance. Why cram all that work into one weekend? I contacted the MTA about it and got back only a canned statement, saying “due to the 24 hour nature of the system, weekends and nights are the only time we can perform this vital and necessary work and minimize the impact on our riders.”

Soon, commuters may be having even more trouble with the MTA, as fare-hike hearings have just begun taking place. Initial proposals had the cost of a 30-day unlimited Metrocard rising once again, from $89 to $99 with a 90-trip limit. A truly unlimited card would cost $104. Newer proposals include raising the price of an unlimited card to $130.

I’m sure most people understand that upkeep is an important part of any transit organization, and it’s also a costly process. But this also comes on the heels of the V and W line elimination, as well as the cutting of over 30 bus lines throughout the city, and that was all due to a $750 million shortfall. We’re paying more for less. So it begs the question: where is all of our fare money going?

According to a the MTA’s latest budget proposal, wage and benefit costs are two-thirds of the organization’s operating expenses. On top of that, the state comptroller’s office is probing into overtime payroll abuses at the MTA, and according to the MTA’s website, they’ve got some doozies. Take, for example, the LIRR engineers who get a whole extra day’s salary “for switching between electric and diesel equipment without working one extra minute.” Or how about the 15 sick days roughly a quarter of MTA employees take that require someone else to fill in and collect overtime? And that says nothing of pensions: the way a city-funded pension works is that you get a certain percentage of whatever salary you made in your most profitable year. So, if I make $50,000 a year, and work enough overtime to earn $75,000, that’s what the barometer is for my pension.

The way the MTA frames it on their website is that they’re cracking down on some sort of injustice, but these employees aren’t doing anything wrong per se. City jobs are generally blue collar jobs, and the “offenders” are just men and women looking for a little extra money to bring home, which they are completely within their rights to do. These are established MTA laws. So where is our money going? Toward fixing the MTA’s mistakes.

UPDATE: An Phung has more on the MTA’s latest inconvenience, while Tuan Nguyen makes the case for the MTA’s fare hikes.

Comments are closed.