Friday, December 26, 2014

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MTA Braces for Spending Cuts in Wake of Labor Deals

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TWC News: MTA Braces for Spending Cuts in Wake of Labor Deals
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Now that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has headed off a strike by Long Island Rail Road workers, it's planning for its financial future—and trying to do it without fare hikes or service cuts. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

There's peace on the labor front, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

In separate deals, city transit and Long Island Rail Road workers got pay raises and new contracts—dodging an LIRR strike in the process.

For the MTA, that means finding a way to cover that $1.5 billion spike in labor costs through 2018.

"By reallocating existing resources that we had, that had been earmarked for other expenses, we will be able to offset this increase in our labor cost without having to raise fares and tolls above that which is currently projected," says MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran.

That could mean cutting spending on system upkeep—not to mention mega-projects like the Second Avenue Subway.

"It would be premature for me to state in any kind of details, what-ifs. They're hypotheticals," says MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast.

Even as the MTA braces for those possible cuts, it's also set to add two more speedier Select Bus Service lines next year and extend weekend J train service to Broad Street.

The agency has been trying to make up for a series of crippling cuts to bus and subway service a few years ago.

After making close to $100 million dollars in so-called doomsday cuts to the budget in 2010, the MTA has now restored or improved services for three years running—to the tune of $60 million.

"These are important dollars and I know our customers will appreciate the service. However, I caution against anyone focusing too much attention on that one element of the budget," says Prendergast.

Also among the improvements: creating so-called Combined Action Teams to tackle track, signal and third rail problems during the evening rush.

"They'll be out there. They'll be strategically placed during the p.m. rush and they'll be able to respond to many, many different types of issues and really cut down the amount of time that it takes to get to the root of a problem," says MTA New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco.

At least, riders hope so. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP