Whoops: MTA $343 Million Short

Uh oh! MTA doomsday budget time again! (Is it already... any time of year, at all?) Farewell, W train! Goodbye, Z train! Hope you didn't need to get anywhere at night or on a weekend!

First the state government "miscalculated" how much revenue the MTA would get from a payroll tax, to the tune of $200 million. And then the state government slashed the MTA budget by $143 million. That adds up to $343 million that the MTA doesn't have, that they really, really need.

Now, dozens of bus lines will be eliminated, a bunch of stations in Lower Manhattan will close overnight (those stations are all too close together anyway), and subways will run on a reduced schedule during off-peak hours, which means if you miss the G train early Sunday morning you should probably just find somewhere to crash in Greenpoint. Oh, and no more free Metrocards for students.

(Unless the state government intervenes, of course! Like most MTA announcements it is half plea and half threat.)

The cuts, obviously, would adversely affect people who work nights and weekends, and kids who might not be able to afford a commute to a school that might be superior to one in their neighborhood. But that is just a coincidence, not the direct result of a series of policy decisions made at every level of government dating back to the Reagan administration. Also the cuts sound suspiciously like just a codification of the current ridiculously terrible level of service we are already receiving. (Seriously, trains are running late because of leaves, now? Fuck you, MTA!)

Hah, it was two short years ago that we bitched about the last fare hike, when the pay-per-ride bonus was reduced to 15%, which was bad enough before they added the 25 fucking cents to the fare. Ugh! (Also that day I think every headline was in all-caps Post-ese.) (And it was last year that the MTA straight-up stole $80 dollars, from me.)

Here is a fun graphic from the Times in 2008 about how in New York subway system, the most heavily-utilized mass transit system in the nation, fares account for the vast majority of the system's revenue, which is insane and not sustainable. (Oh, but we don't pay that much, if you count discounts, and also if you count each leg of one trip—i.e. each time you change trains—as a separate trip, which is INSANE.) And don't listen to the MTA lies: adjusting for inflation we are paying more than we ever have in the history of the subway system, and significantly more than was paid in the golden era of mass ridership in the '50s and '60s.

Fuck the MTA, right, but fuck the New York State Senate more. This is all Pedro Espada, Carl Kruger, and Hiram "Lady-Slasher" Monserrate's fault, of course. Kruger, in particular, is just a tremendous asshole. (And hey, Mayor Bloomberg, how is that third-term "free buses" campaign promise coming? You working on that?)

Once again: the federal government needs to contribute to operating costs for mass transit. This is ridiculous. You know what you do, as the federal government, when you really don't give a shit about a group but don't want to held responsible for hurting them? You require that states take care of them. Old people get federally funded Medicare, poor people get a federal/state partnership called Medicaid that ensures constant underfunding. The feds maintain highways for, you know, people who live outside of the city who use their cars to get to work. The states can take care of mass transit, right? What could possibly be the problem with having state governments that aren't allowed to run budget deficits fund programs and services designed to aid the economically disadvantaged? That'll work out fine, unless there's some sort of economic crisis! In the event of an economic crisis, of course, states would have to cut these services and programs at precisely the time when the largest number of people need them the most, and that would be hilarious!

Tomorrow better be the best fucking Surplus Tuesday ever.

[Photo: City Hall station, 1978. Library of Congress.]