Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Saladino and the MTA Fare Hike - Not Thinking it Through Again

Just when I thought I could agree with Assemblyman Joe Saladino about LIRR fare hikes, I had to go and read his entire letter in the Massapequa edition of the South Bay News.. After reading the letter I came to the conclusion that beyond opposing the fare hike, Assemblyman Saladino knows very little about the issue.
As a daily commuter on the LIRR, I too oppose a fare increase. I also oppose a fare increase for the NYC Subway system which would be a double hit on commuters from Long Island. In addition to my monthly LIRR ticket, I buy a metrocard for the subway as do most of the LIRR commuters. Clearly Mr. Saladino has never had to commute to the city.
Saladino writes “It would seem as though charging Long Islanders more is acceptable to them while New York City subway riders receive no increase.”
The fact is that the MTA is reducing the metro card pay-per-ride bonus and increasing the 7 Day and 30 Day Unlimited Ride fares. A 25 cent subway fare increase was put off for another year but a majority of riders (86%) use the Unlimited Rides and buy Metrocards with the bonus. This hurts Long Island commuters and city residents alike.
A 25 cent increase would only make matters worse especially for those of us who commute every day. Does Saladino want the almost 270,000 daily Long Island commuters to pay more on top of higher LIRR fares? I sure hope not.

Saladino really goes off the rails when he writes ” We must not be used to fill the coffers of city authorities and schools…” and “The time has come to stop using Long Island taxpayers as the Golden Goose for special interests and city services.”
For the past few years, instead of dealing with the issues thoughtfully, Saladino makes New York City to be the big bad boogeyman responsible for all our ills. I am not going to get into the other issues but just focus on the MTA fares right now. The fact is that when it comes to fares as a percent of operating expenditures, NYC Transit is 53.1% while the LIRR is just 44.6%. When you look at state and local general or dedicated funds as percent of operating expenditures, the LIRR gets 53.8% while NYC Transit only gets 44.9%.
The problem is that the MTA suffered under 12 years of Governor Pataki’s lacksidasical interest in commuter rail and many bad choices by the MTA board.
The riders who are also taxpayers will always bear the burden of a transit authority that has not been reigned in for many, many years. Instead of a dumping ground for political patronage and half-formed financial gimmicks, the MTA needs to be run more efficiently and in the open so we can see where the money is going. Total ridership for the LIRR is up 8%. So where is all that money going to? That is what we need to focus on. We need to know how the money generated by the LIRR is being spent. I don’t have all the answers to solve the financial problems the MTA constantly finds itself in but I do recognize the problem starts with the MTA Board itself.
As a commuter, I hope that Saladino will focus on the real issues with the MTA and stop the anti- New York City polemics. It doesn’t help and it’s mostly smoke and mirrors to avoid dealing with the real problems we have.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Saladino is right! Here on Long Island, I have no choice but to have a car and buy gas for it...all very expensive. No one pays for my transportation and yet everytime I turn around, there is a new "MTA" tax. Sales tax on every purchase - MTA, register a car - MTA, use the phone - MTA.

I don't use the train, so don't expect sympathy here! Joe Saladino has it right!