As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority scrambles for new ways to solve its financial crisis, NY1 has learned that the transit agency and its largest union have agreed on a mediator to help broker a deal to cut expenses and limit the impact on riders. NY1’s Transit reporter John Mancini filed the following report.
Mass transit commuters' pain could be eased if cost-saving talks between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Transport Workers Union get back on track.
"Labor represents a large portion of the cost of doing business here, about two-thirds of the cost of doing business at the MTA. My hope is that we can work together in partnership," said MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder.
In an exclusive interview with NY1, Walder said mediation proposed by the TWU could help close the budget gap without reduce service.
Sources told NY1 that both sides see former Fordham Law School Dean John Feerick as a leading candidate to broker those talks.
In a statement, though, TWU President John Samuelsen gave a strong precondition -- "[W]e remain adamant that a no-strings-attached, no-layoff clause must be part of any brokered agreement."
Walder said the MTA has also shouldered some of the burden, cutting administrative costs by 15 percent.
"Clearly we will need more from Albany and from the city, but I think today our challenge is to show people we are using every dollar effectively," said Walder.
Two weeks into a slew of service cuts, the MTA may still have to raise fares even beyond the planned 7.5 percent hike in January.
One proposal would reportedly charge an extra dollar to riders who buy new MetroCards rather than refill. Higher weekly and monthly fares could be coming, and advocates fear straphangers will bear an ever-increasing load.
"Riders pay about 50 percent of the cost of operating the transit system. Now, that might sound like a bargain to some of your viewers, but it's the highest in the nation," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.
New Yorkers who have ridden the transit system through good times and bad understand the crisis is real this time. Some even told NY1 they were willing to pay a little bit more if it means saving service.
“I can handle another quarter or 50 cents, as long as they keep the air conditioners on,” said one transit user.
“I would pay more if they maintain the level because service cuts are just going to irritate everyone else,” said another.
The budget picture is bound to become clearer when the MTA board meets in about three weeks. In a city where it’s a sin to pay retail, wholesale changes are headed down the track.