Fixing the MTA

May 6, 2009 1:49:45 PM PDT
The New York State Senate is voting tonight on the proposed MTA bailout plan.

What a complicated, horrible situation. Talk about throwing good money after bad. It's not just the thought of pouring $2 billion into an agency that blows through money as if it were tissue.

These are tough times to be sure and there's no news in that.

But this is an agency that had a $2 billion surplus a year ago.

Yes, I know, subway ridership is down. That means revenue is down.

And the real estate market is down. That means MTA revenue is down as well, since it relies on taxes generated by real estate.

But no where in the bailout plan is there any discussion about changing the way the beleaguered agency is run, or its strategy.

It's tempting to call the MTA New York's AIG. But there's one big difference: At least when taxpayers coughed up money for these bone-headed private corporations, the feds attached strings to the funds. Where are the strings for MTA's management? Where is at least a discussion about how to avoid another fiasco like this next year?

The answer: Nowhere.

And so the State is forcing just about everyone to bite the bullet - this in a time when everyone is already biting bullets.

Where the logic escapes me is that if lawmakers were really serious about getting people out of their cars and onto the public transportation system, then jack up bridge and tunnel tolls by a factor of two or three; institute congestion pricing; make it unaffordable to ride anything but public transit.

That would increase MTA revenues.

I've not heard anyone talking about that.

Blame it on a lack of leadership, pure and simple.

Oh, and I understand the instinct not to raise bus and subway fares. Many people simply can't afford it. But the truth is a $2.50 subway or bus fare is the best bargain in New York, and the majority of passengers could indeed afford to pay, say 50 cents more. Why not offer low-income riders a price break? Now that would be progressive and real leadership.

The bottom line: It's time to reevaluate how the MTA is funded. And it's troubling - and infuriating - that no one is talking about that.

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We'll have the latest on the MTA bailout, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, figures to be quite a meeting in Queens tonight, as officials at Con Edison get ready to face angry residents who live next to or near the house that exploded last month. The April 24 gas blast killed a mother of three who lived inside. Con Ed was working in the neighborhood when it happened.

And there's apparently another "Ninja" burglar on the loose and at work on Staten Island. He's hit a dozen homes so far. Is he a copy cat for the Ninja burglar who was busted last year after months of free rein?

And our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer tonight with a story that will likely make your blood boil. The widow of a disabled World War II vet from Long Island - gets a notice that because she forgot to fill out an application, her pension benefits were being cut off and, adding insult to injury, she would have to reimburse the government thousands of dollars.

Just wrong. Jim rides to the rescue, at 11.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.