Did you hear the great news? The MTA will not raise fares! Or cut service! Wonderful! Except none of the headlines say "for just one year." Or "not counting the existing fare increase and de facto service cuts."
The new $11 billion operating budget is actually just an ominous warning that in a year—or maybe a few months—the Transit Authority will once again cite the need to hike fares in order to strong arm Albany in finding a newer, more regressive way of funding operating costs.
They have basically promised it already:
In addition to the 2010 budget, the MTA released a four-year fiscal plan. It envisions 7.5% fare and toll hikes in 2011 and 2013 as the agency tries to establish a pattern of regular inflation-based increases.
There is really not so much inflation right now, in America, is there? (But who knows what the future holds!)
But, yes, it is insane that our mass transit is operated by a rotating cast of idiot millionaires with free E-Zpasses for life (and beyond!) beholden to absolutely no one, at all, operating with two sets of books, and yet we have to actually sympathize with them because the people who profit from the way an efficient mass transit system allows for the mobility of cheap labor don't think they should be forced to pony up any money to keep transit affordable. Fares are simply taxes—incredibly regressive taxes, just like the sales taxes that New York City residents suffer to fund our own transit while suburban New Yorkers bitch about the prospect of being charged to clog our streets with their cars, and Jersey dicks bemoan the tolls they have to pay to enter the city where they make all of their money while contributing nothing back.
Meanwhile, though, the MTA lies, about everything, all the time. They are saving just enough of the money from the emergency bailout earlier this year to allow them to not threaten to raise fares again for one (1) year (while fighting transit workers' promised wage increase in court). And thanks to that bailout, we only had to endure a slight fare increase with no service cuts! Except that not a single goddamn line is running on schedule anymore, ever, and that's been the case all year and it only gets worse every week.
Track and signal work must be up 1000% across the board, because there's hardly a line that isn't out of commission on the conveniently poorer or less utilizied portions of the routes these days. The F just gives up at Jay St now. The service advisories, when they are actually correctly posted, which is rarely, grow longer every weekend. If you live outside Manhattan, you better catch a train home before 11 pm, because otherwise who the fuck knows when a train will show up and where it will actually take you. Lord only knows what the hell the G train was doing last weekend, and why. Everyone, anecdotally, has noticed this. But no one has just straight-up said that these are the across the board service cuts that they promised they wouldn't need to institute once we saved them from disaster a few months ago.
It is time, now, immediately, to do a few things:
- To end the insane federal transit funding system that a) overfunds highways and b) dispenses capital project money for urban mass transit systems but forbids any federal spending on operating costs for cities of more than 200,000 people. The Reagan administration slashed mass transit funding, of course, but it was Mr. Bill Clinton who eliminated operating assistance altogether. Do you want to know about how much highway funding has increased over the same period of time? No, you don't. Real estate taxes and fares are not the proper way to fund the nation's largest subway system, especially when we will earmark federal cash for the Robert Byrd Memorial Frontage Road to the Erma Ora Byrd Conference and Learning Center and Community Swimming Pool.
- To destroy the MTA. The public authorities reform bill that just passed the Assembly is a wonderful start! But the entire board needs to be dissolved and replaced with, you know, actual subway riders, elitist technocrat transit wonks, and people with experience in government management and accounting. Civil servants, in other words.
- Everyone in Albany should be tarred and feathered. This is an important part of our prescription for any local problem.
- Also fuck Bloomberg.
Anyway! No fare increases until January 1, 2011! And some day—maybe in like 2015, when you ride the robot-operated Second Avenue line to your favorite soup kitchen—there may be those little signs that tell you when the next train is coming! This "install little signs" project is only a zillion dollars over budget (so far!).