Monthly Metro Cards to Rise to $89

Its still better than $103, right?

Image Courtesy of News Day

Image Courtesy of News Day

Or is the joke on us? The bill signed into place by Albany law makers last night, that will prevent huge fare hikes and service cuts from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), might already have some problems. As City Room reports, the plan will be raising less money than was initially thought (are numbers out of date already?), no one knows how the fifty cent surcharge from cabbies will be collected and NY schools are not too happy about the payroll tax increase and are not too certain that they will be reimbursed for them, as the bill “promises.”

What is practically a footnote in this piece is the subject of a piece in the Daily News. The MTA’s leadership is being changed in with these reforms. The unpaid part time position of Board Chair is being merged with that of the Executive Director (who is also the Chief Executive Operator). This could be something to work with if we want to think long term, internal organizational changes.

If you take a look at the leadership of the MTA, the Board side of things is largely populated with real estate moguls. The Chair and both Vice Chairmen all have extensive real estate ties. It is shocking to see how lightly peppered the board is with people who have transit experience or training. There certainly are some, but they are not the clear majority, or any majority for that matter. Transit people don’t operate real estate ventures. So, why do real estate people operate transit ventures? Of course it is important to have people in charge who have experience with budget management. It is not just transit, but that hasn’t been too, um, successful either. Could this be a good time to think about what type of people are fit to serve on the MTA board? Currently, a large source of revenue for the MTA is real estate tax, which perhaps explains the type of leadership needed. I’m no expert. And I’m not sure if it’s a chicken or egg situation. But bottom line, the MTA needs a less volatile source of funding and leadership based in transit. On the Management team, things look better. Elliot Sander, the Executive Director and CEO of the MTA actually does have an extensive transit background. In addition, he has experience in “organizational turn-arounds,” two things the MTA seems to desperately need.

Nobody expected the rescue plan to be flawless. The MTA is in crisis. But if this could be used as an opportunity to create some legitimate changes at the organization, where the crisis is stemming from, perhaps our commute suffering won’t be in vain. And in about five years, we will look back and say, remember when the MTA was a mess? Or we will be sinking further into transit oblivion, thinking how good we had it in 2009. Let’s hope for the former.

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