MTA subway and bus issues top agenda at New York City Council oversight hearing

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N.J. Burkett reports on the City Council hearing on mass transit problems.

Members of the New York City Council held a hearing Tuesday to address ongoing problems plaguing mass transit, and the head of New York City Transit outlined his plan to fix the troubled subway and bus system.

The Committee of Transportation oversight hearing focused on what advocates describe as a growing crisis, particularly with the prospect of raising fares at a time when service disruptions and delays are a regular part of daily life for commuters.

Transit President Andy Byford explained changes the agency has already made to improve delays within the system, and he agreed that agency needs a new revenue source to address a huge budget deficit.

"What's really needed isn't maintaining the status quo," he said. "It's pushing on and completely modernizing the system in the shortest time frame as possible."

At a rally before the hearing, local leaders called on the state to approve congestion pricing and the millionaire's tax to ease the deficit - instead of passing on the cost to the riders.

Council members also discussed how the agency plans to provide solutions and address the lack of accessibility for riders with disabilities at subway stations.

Transportation Committee chairman Ydanis Rodriguez says the cost of making those changes should not fall to the riders, and that no matter where the new revenue comes from, the transit system must not be allowed to deteriorate.

"We cannot go backward," he said. "We cannot think that riders will support any cut that are so essential for them to go to work or go to school or go to a medical appointment."

Among the issues addressed at the hearing was fare evasion, with half a million people jumping the turnstiles or pushing their way through the emergency exits each day.

On the subways it's an estimated 4 percent of riders, just over 200,000 people every day.

On the buses, it's 16 percent, or nearly 350,000 people, a combined loss to the MTA of $215 million so far this year at a time when the agency is facing a billion dollar deficit.

"That's still a chunk of money that's not going towards improving transit, making it more reliable, buying new vehicles, improving stations," said Byford.

The Transit Authority president called for stepped up enforcement.

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