It is unacceptable for the MTA to force commuters to pay more—for less—at a time when they are already feeling the pinch in a thousand other ways: the housing crisis, the increased threat of unemployment, mountains of debt, and so on. Higher fares will mean that more people will have to make a choice between medicine or the bus, food or the subway.
Because of the high price of Manhattan real estate, many working families live far away, in the outer boroughs, Long Island, or elsewhere. Many of these areas have no public transportation to speak of, and, consequently, these people, pushed to the outskirts by poverty, have to drive to work. Raising tolls or even creating new tolls on the East River bridges will hurt them directly.
Service cuts will mean that thousands of New Yorkers will shoulder an increased burden, and greater danger when trying to get to and from their jobs or schools.
The current deficit at the MTA must not be resolved on the backs of working people.
The plan to lay off thousands of workers and cut expenses is in stark contrast to President-elect Barack Obama’s policy statements, in which he argues the need to pump money into the real economy in order to maintain necessary services and ensure that the financial crisis isn’t solved on the backs of working people. Obama has called for major public works programs to restore public infrastructure and green the economy. By employing more people who can therefore spend more on necessities, increased government spending can only stimulate the faltering economy.
Conversely, laying off thousands of MTA workers will play a part in deepening the financial local financial crisis.
In keeping with President-elect Obama’s plan to rebuild infrastructure, the MTA, to further stimulate the should employ more people and direct more resources to improve service, keep the rail system up to date, and build certain necessary projects, like the Second Avenue subway line. After all, there is hardly any infrastructure in the region more major than our transportation system. Without it, the city and metropolitan region would fail.
The argument that the proposed extra costs will reduce pollution is, at best, spurious. Though thousands of people would rather take public transit into the city, in many areas, it is simply not available. To reduce pollution, more service, not less, is needed. There are wide swaths of Brooklyn and Queens that are without rail service.
The MTA’s operating and capital investment budgets must not only be funded, but expanded. This is not impossible, even in the current financial environment. First, the MTA must not waste money through sweetheart deals with big developers. A colossal amount of money was wasted when the MTA agreed to sell air rights to the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner for $50 million, though the independently assessed value was as high as $900 million. Even when another firm offered a higher bid, the MTA chose to go with Forest City Ratner. Other projects, like the proposed extension of the 7 subway line, which is essentially a multi-billion dollar gift to the developers, could be postponed.
The state and city should make sure that the MTA can make up its shortfall; where it can’t it they should go into debt if necessary, borrow as much as is needed. Instead of balancing the deficit on the backs of working people, the state could finally impose the millionaires' tax to fund both the MTA and other city and state programs. They must do whatever is needed to ensure that the MTA doesn’t help to further deteriorate the lives of working people in and around New York. It’s likely that money will come from the federal government in the next administration; even if it doesn’t, borrowing and spending are the only responsible way forward.
The people of New York can’t afford anything else.
By Dan Margolis
for the New York State Communist Party