Recent reports cite fiscal challenges across the MTA.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C,I-Brooklyn, Staten Island) and MTA Board Member Allen Cappelli today blasted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) over its continued cost-overruns and fiscal irresponsibility. The MTA once again pushed back the completion date and budget forecast for the East Side Access project for the fourth time in 10 years. The MTA now estimates the project will likely not be completed until September 2020 or 2021, at a final cost ranging from $9.3 billion to $9.7 billion. A recent audit by the New York State Comptroller also found that Metro North and LIRR wasted money on employee overtime for hand washing, commuting and changing clothes.
Other recent reports have disagreed with the MTA projections. These reports argue the project may not be completed until 2023 at a cost of $10.8 billion — or 14 years later than first planned and $6.5 billion over the initial budget estimate. The authority originally estimated the link between the LIRR and Grand Central Terminal would be ready for riders by 2009 at a cost of $4.3 billion.
“This is exactly the reason the MTA is in such a dire fiscal situation, and commuters across our community are continually asked to shell out more, which has led to the highest tolls in the nation. It is absurd and completely unacceptable that a government agency could possibly miscalculate time and cost overruns to the point that they now exceed $6.5 billion and 10 years,” said Malliotakis.
“What is particularly galling is that the MTA is going to spend $10 billion so 150,000 people don’t have to take a quick train ride across town, while 500,000 people on Staten Island need a real rail link to the rest of the system,” said MTA Board Member Allen Cappelli.
In 2011, both Malliotakis and Cappelli voted against increased debt and the MTA Capital plan in the legislature and on the MTA board respectively.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott
NYC Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
Dear Chancellor Walcott:
As we embark on the new school year, we write to you in regards to an urgent and very real problem with which Staten Island parents have been dealing for much of the past year. The decision of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Education to eliminate a variance allowing 7th and 8th Graders to utilize school bus service has put the children of our borough in significant danger. We believe we have a revenue-neutral solution that would assist those most at risk by this proposal.
Staten Island is unique among the five boroughs in terms of both geography and infrastructure. We are, in reality, a suburb. Staten Island is less densely populated than the rest of the city and contains fewer schools, which results in a relatively large number of our borough’s children being forced to travel a long distance to and from school everyday.
Staten Island also has the most limited access to public transportation in the city, with only 20 local buses and one train line made available to us. This forces students to walk a number of blocks before they make it to the nearest MTA bus stop, through dangerous intersections and along streets that sometimes lack sidewalks and contain blind turns. Furthermore, Staten Island has significantly less traffic lights and crossing signals. Add the fact that the borough contains a disproportionately high number of automobiles, and it makes for a very dangerous situation.
The danger became a reality earlier this year when Aniya Williams, a 7th Grader who had just finished her last day of school for the year, was struck by a tractor-trailer and killed while running after a New York City bus. With her tragic death, it has become abundantly clear that we need to get more students onto school buses and off the streets. We have tried a number of ways to accomplish this task.
In September of 2010, Councilman Vincent Ignizio filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education, challenging their decision to remove 7th and 8th Graders from school bus service. The court ruled in the councilman’s favor, finding that the Department of Education acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in eliminating the variance. Unfortunately, this decision was reversed by the Appellate Division.
In the State Legislature, the entire delegation signed onto legislation introduced by Senator Lanza and Assemblyman Cusick which would mandate that the New York City Department of Education administer school bus service to all students, including 7th and 8th Graders, who live outside the requisite proximity to their school. This bill has been passed in the Senate and is currently being reviewed by the Assembly Committee on Education.
This brings us to our current course of action. Presently, the NYC Office of Pupil Transportation denies transportation to students who are ineligible under the city’s current policy, despite the existence of many empty seats on the buses. It is unreasonable that New York City is already paying for buses to drive full routes while transporting a mere portion of those who desire school bus service. We propose that variances be issued to those students who need to cross a road of four lanes or more to reach the closest MTA bus stop.
Such variances will improve the safety of children like Vincent Dipalo, a 9-year old 4th grade student who attends Public School 42R. Vincent’s access to the nearest MTA bus stop requires him to navigate an 11-lane intersection at Drumgoole Road West and Arthur Kill Road. This intersection has a very high volume or motor vehicles. The hazardous vehicle volume is increased exponentially with the presence of a highway entrance within 200 feet. This entrance serves as a major pathway to the Outerbridge Crossing.
We ask that you strongly consider our recommendation, as we believe it is a feasible method of increasing school bus service in a fair and revenue-neutral manner. This amendment would address not only 7th and 8th Graders, but also younger students who are denied school bus service due to proximity to their school.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. As the new school year commences, we hope that we can provide the parents of Staten Island schoolchildren with some peace of mind.
Very truly yours,
Nicole Malliotakis, Michael G. Grimm, James P. Molinaro, Diane J. Savino, Louis R. Tobacco, James S. Oddo, Vincent M. Ignizio, Deborah Rose, Sam Pirozzolo
Legislators call on agency to put their chips on the table in the public eye
Senator Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C, 60th District) recently announced that they are sponsoring legislation calling for an independent audit of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)’s finances. The pair highlighted developments in recent years that have led to the need for light to be shed on the way that the MTA spends taxpayer money.
“The MTA consistently deals with a deficit of its own creation and consistently comes to the taxpayers of this state with their hands out,” said Senator Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island). “They create mess after mess and then pass the buck onto taxpayers by hiking fares and cutting services. The MTA’s finances should be independently examined to seek greater efficiencies and cut expenses, just like the rest of us have had to do in our own households and businesses.”
“By decreasing services while increasing fares and tolls, the MTA has demonstrated that their problems stem not from a lack of revenue, but from mismanagement and inefficiency,” said Malliotakis. “Even with additional funding from the disastrous MTA Payroll Tax, driver’s license and registration fees, taxes on car rentals and a litany of other charges, the 60th Assembly District has seen eight bus lines either scaled back or completely eliminated. An independent audit of the MTA’s finances would allow the public to see how their money is being spent, while enabling state government to pinpoint the waste and inefficiency that has allowed the agency’s spending to spiral out of control.”
Lanza is sponsoring Senate Bill 4637, while Malliotakis is sponsoring the Assembly companion, 7856.