Elected officials, organized
labor and transit activists mounted an 11th-hour appeal this week to head off a
proposed MTA fare raise, imploring Gov. George Pataki to stop the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority from carrying out hikes in transit fares as well as
bridge and tunnel tolls along with shutdowns of subway booths.
The MTA board was scheduled to
give final approval to the increases at a meeting Thursday, Dec. 16.
The New York City Transit
Authority, the MTA subsidiary that oversees bus and subway operations, Tuesday
approved closing 164 subway fare booths, including 13 in Queens.
As the deadline for the MTA
fare vote loomed, transit activists chanting "No Fare Hike" and "MTA Going Wrong
Way" held a demonstration organized by the Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives and the
Transport Workers Union in front of Pataki's East Side Manhattan offices.
Officials who spoke to the
nearly 150 people gathered at the rally included U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew
Gardens), state Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights), former Bronx Borough
President Fernando Ferrer, and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller
(D-Manhattan), who said "our red state mayor and our red state governor" were
responsible for the financial straits of the MTA. Both have drastically cut
subsidies for the transit agency. Demonstrators carried placards proclaiming
"Keep the Booths Open" and "Metro Transit Atrocity."
Weiner, Ferrer and Miller are
likely Democratic mayoral candidates in next year's race for City Hall.
The MTA plan, to take effect in
March, would boost the cost of a 30-day unlimited ride MetroCard from $70 to
$76, a weekly MetroCard from $21 to $24, express bus fares from $4 to $5, Long
Island Rail Road fares by 5 percent, bridge and tunnel tolls by 50 cents for
major crossings and 25 cents on others. The basic $2 fare would remain.
City Councilman John Liu
(D-Flushing), chairman of the Council's Transportation Committee, said "for Gov.
Pataki, who appoints the majority of the MTA board, to claim the authority is
'an independent entity' is both disingenuous and irresponsible."
Bloomberg has instructed the
four members he appointed to the MTA board to cast their votes against the fare
Liu added, "Instead of hiding
in the shadows, Gov. Pataki needs to step up to the plate and reverse his
misguided policy of cutting subsidies to our public transit system, which is the
lifeblood of our regional economy,"
The MTA plans to shut down 164
subway booths and reassign the displaced personnel as roving attendants in the
stations to answer questions and help straphangers use fare vending machines.
Transit advocates and leaders of transit workers unions have assailed the
proposed shutdowns as an invitation to criminal activity underground.
Local 100 of the Transport
Workers Union has put on television commercials blasting MTA plans to subway
station booths with union President Roger Toussaint saying: "The MTA wants to
close down token booths and remove station agents who keep us safe and secure.
What are they thinking?"
The MTA's financial plight has
kept worsening with the agency itself predicting it would be as much as $1.1
billion in the hole by 2007. The debt has risen rapidly because Mayor Michael
Bloomberg has slashed the city's contribution to the transit agency and Pataki
has cut his subsidies to zero to the MTA capital plan for the purchase of new
subway and railroad cars and rebuilding subway lines. This has forced the MTA
into prodigious borrowing with resulting skyrocketing interest.
Some Albany legislators have
discussed diverting $1 billion in sales tax proceeds intended for New York City
to the financially troubled MTA.
The New York Times Tuesday said
a third of the MTA's more than 600 police officers earned $100,000 last year by
working overtime, doubling or even tripling their regular annual salaries.
A published report said MTA
Chairman Peter Kalikow last year approved a 22 percent pay raise for MTA
Executive Director Katherine Lapp.
Submitted by forrest on February 7, 2008 - 12:35. categories [