The MTA finally passed its so-called Doomsday Budget today. If this comes as a surprise, well, you're not the only one taken aback. Last year, the transit authority was in a similar predicament—in part because the Legislature refused to implement congestion pricing but mostly because of the recession. But, as with most things in (at least New York) politics, an eleventh hour deal was brokered and the funds were found to stave off the draconian cuts. We figured that would be the case this time around, especially since the MTA's new and particularly shrewd boss Jay Walder made all the right cuts that would be politically unpalatable for Albany to keep in place, like, say, Student MetroCards. So then why did they pass? Granted the cuts will not go into effect until June, so there is still time to avert some, if not all, of them, though that is seemingly increasingly impossible. The reason is there simply isn't enough money to go around anymore to fill these gaping holes. The city is on the verge of axing thousands of teachers because the Paterson administration has raided those funds as well—the MTA lost $143 million to the state budget, coupled with a poor return on those eleventh hour bailouts, like a new payroll tax. We asked transit sage Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, how it came to this, and he basically agreed that we've reached bone. "Tight money is part of the problem. Competition with education and health care for scarce money is not to transit's advantage," Russianoff wrote in an email. "There's also MTA's lack of credibility with public. Elected officials believe people will blame MTA and not them for service cuts. Jay Walder believes he needs to downsize agency to make every dollar count to buid up lost credibility." There is still hope, should the agency decide to trim its capital funds, as the Straphangers and City Council have been advocating, but the MTA continues to oppose such cuts, arguing they're worse than reduced service. We can keep our fingers crossed for more stimulus funds, or perhaps complain to Bruce Ratner. But it's starting to look like our last best hope might be good old-fashioned prayer.
Posts tagged with "Gene Russianoff":
Sometimes, bad news can be good news. That's the conclusion we came to when we saw the map above, posted on the MTA-obsessed blog 2nd Ave. Sagas. On Friday, the MTA announced its revised set of Doomsday 2.0 service cuts, which include slightly fewer bus route eliminations and maybe not quite-so-bad service (get the very detailed details on the Sagas blog). But as Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphanger's Campaign, put it in an email today, "the cuts still stink." Except for one. While the MTA has still recommended eliminating the W-Train and most of the G in Queens, the elimination of the M-Train will be coupled with the extension of the V into Brooklyn and Queens, providing residents of South Williamsburg, Bushwick, northern BedStuy, and Ridgewood a far more convenient route to Midtown than the morass that is a Canal Street transfer. Russianoff does dampen the parade somewhat with this caveat: "The M platforms are shorter than the V (480 feet instead of 600 feet), so the new line would be composed of a smaller number of cars. The MTA materials admit there would be an increase in crowding, but don’t describe how much." But in further good news, the revised cuts also call off the elimination of the Z Express, which would have made the trip in from parts of Queens interminable. We won't venture to guess whether the proposed V service has anything to do with the affected areas continued gentrification, but it does remind us of another bad-news-is-good situation on the aforementioned, afflicted G. The impending closure the Smith/9th Street station, while a pain in the ass for Redhook residents, has become a blessing for their southern neighbors, as the G must turn around quite a ways further down the line, with service now extended five stops further to Church Avenue. Denizens of Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, and Kensington are among the grateful. We're still begging the MTA not to make any cuts, though here's hoping they might make this V-Train change no matter what. As for bad news that is bad news, Bob Noorda, the graphic designer who created the iconic, unmistakable subway signage, died two weeks ago according to an obit in the Times. Perhaps compose your next email, blog post, or tweet in Helvetica in his honor.
If you've been frustrated by the recent flood of delays on the Subway, don't complain to Howard Roberts. The president of New York City Transit, which operates the R142s and the various city buses, Roberts submitted his resignation today, effective the end of the month. The move did not come as a surprise to the Times, which noted that the move had actually been expected by many within the MTA because of failings over a recently renegotiated transit workers contract and, more simply, "a changing of the guard [...] is often accompanied by staff shake-ups." (Jay Walder, the new head of the MTA who accepted Robertson's resignation, took over roughly a month ago.) Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, lauded Roberts, however, for working under tight budgetary strictures and for implementing line "czars" for each subway. Still, it appeared to be too little, too late, as service remained relatively spotty, for which the former head of Philly's public transit often took the blame, as well as for enforcing an MTA rule requiring Sikh's to affix an agency logo to their turbans. Reading each others minds as usual, both the News and the Post point out in their ledes that Robertson will be awarded a $300,000 severance.