On Facebook a bunch of my friends are encouraging people to sign an online petition by the Working Families Party. The entire statement you are asked to sign your name to is:
Monthly MetroCards for $130??? Fuggedaboutit! The MTA needs to stop using fare hikes as a short-term fix and come up with long-term solutions to solve its budget crisis.
I’m not signing it, because this is basically for the Working Families Party to add names to its email list. But also because it’s perpetuating the notion that the MTA alone has the power to fix the problem. Because they don’t.
First of all, if you believe there is so much “waste” in their budget that simply cutting back on, what? post-it notes?, would fix the problem, you’re delusional. Prove me wrong if you can. You would be The Hero of New York.
Second, you must realize that your MetroCard is heavily subsidized by taxes. This is fair. Access to public transit increases the value of real estate, so it makes sense that if I make money on that value, the MTA receives some of the benefit. There are other government subsidies that go into the budget, because public transit system benefits everybody in the city, even the people who don’t ride it themselves.
Third, most businesses have some freedom to adjust employee pay and benefits in situations like this. Unfortunately (for the MTA), the employees have a union with a sweet deal that is not willing to give it up. So the MTA’s labor costs are fixed. That is, unless the government were to get involved.
So, we’re in this mess because the economy tanked and tax receipts went way, way down. Meanwhile, its costs haven’t changed. But the MTA has no control over the tax money it receives. So if it wants to increase revenue, it can only raise fares; and the only way it can cut costs is by cutting back on service.
In fact, see where the $130 figure came from:
When asked by reporters after the board meeting about the viability of that option, MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder said it’s possible, but if a choice were offered for a 30-day pass, “the price for the unlimited card would have to be $130 or higher.”
He’s not saying they want to charge that much because they feel like it. He is saying, if you want to keep a 30-day pass, and you don’t have money coming from anywhere else, $130 is how much they would have to charge to keep the books balanced.
I’m trying to make the point here that the State Legislature in Albany is who you need to be screaming at. As long as the MTA is taking all the blame, your representatives are happy to leave the problem alone: if you don’t think it’s their fault, it’s one less thing they have to deal with and answer to during campaign season.
So what should you do? Unfortunately, I don’t know of anybody who is coordinating a campaign to direct attention to the State. So I’d suggest contacting your State Assemblymember and your State Senator, and asking them what they plan to do about the problem.
In fact, do that, and post the answers you receive.
Edit: If you start with the Find My Senator form, it will report your NYS Assembly District number, which is useful because the Assembly’s page may give you several results for the same zip code.