Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Permit me a moment to bitch about something. The MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), which runs all of the subways, buses, and bridge/highway tolls for the greater New York City area, announced this morning that in fact they would be raising rates and cutting services as of May 31. They've been warning us for months about the possibility of this happening, but it was officially decided this morning. The implication was that the MTA has been waiting from Albany to have the state government assist with their budgetary shortfall, but of course Albany is in no rush to do anything for NYC. Albany has a love-hate relationship with the City. They're willing to take in all the tax revenue and tourist dollars that the City brings the state, but they hate the fact that the 5 boroughs of NYC thus become the focus of the entire state's attention. Not too long ago, when Mayor Bloomberg was begging them to make a decision about supporting the federal government's plan to help states improve mass transit systems, they couldn't even get their act together to discuss the issue, and we lost out on an opportunity for millions of dollars of revenue to improve our mass transit system. Sometimes I wonder whether NYC would be better off as its own independent state.
I realize of course that everyone is hurting financially, including all government agencies. But during an economic crisis such as this, doesn't it make more sense to somehow help the people by improving mass transit systems, so as to alleviate traffic from commuter cars? You should see the subway terminals. Very few are attractive. One or two are actually quite nice. The vast majority, however, are in desperate need of some serious cleaning. And what's with the ridiculous waste of thin plastic cards that you can only reuse if they're pay-per-ride? London has been using a permanent debit-like card for ages now! (Okay, admittedly, the tube in London is also more expensive.) A few years ago, the MTA was claiming they had a budgetary surplus, so they gave people free rides through extended passes. A year later, they were raising rates, and now they're raising them again.
It currently costs $2 to ride the subway or a bus. That's going up to $2.50. Many residents have unlimited passes though. I always buy 30-day unlimited passes that are currently $81 and allow me to ride all the subways and buses without paying another fee. That is going up to $103. Now, that's a bit of a jump to me. Admittedly, it's only $22 per month, but that works out to be $264 a year. Can I afford that? Yes, I guess so, but it means cutting back on a few splurges. For people who are making lower salaries and are dependent on the mass transit system to get them to work, this is going to make a difference, and I feel most angry for them. To make matters worse, the MTA also is planning to cut 35 bus routes and 2 subway lines completely. In addition, they're cutting back on subway service during nights and weekends. Tolls on highways/bridges are increasing as well.
People started complaining months ago when the MTA held hearings, but it had no effect. You would think they at least would have adjusted these changes to make them less severe. Supposedly there is a slight possibility that Albany may come through in time to help salvage some of this before it officially goes into effect, but I'm not holding my breath. You can read more about all this in The New York Times. You'll quickly discover by all the comments from readers that it's a mixed bag. What bothers me more than anything else is that it seems like something just isn't working at the MTA.