Updated 01/15/2009 03:07 PM
MTA Officials Push Ravitch Recommendations In Albany
MTA board members were in the state capital Tuesday to urge lawmakers to implement the recommendations of the Ravitch Report, which include adding tolls to the East River and Harlem River crossings as a way to raise revenue for the cash-strapped agency. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report from Albany.
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The day began, naturally enough, on mass transit -- an Amtrak train to Albany, where MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger and a contingent of MTA board members spent the day hat in hand, lobbying lawmakers for more state funding, to rescue riders from service cuts and a massive fare hike.
"We represent the riders, and we're here to make their case, not our case. Hopefully the legislators are listening very carefully because they are elected by those very same people," said Hemmerdinger.
But one of the solutions recently proposed by the Ravitch Commission to help fund the system is proving to be a tough sell -- the plan to put tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges, which are owned by the city.
The state Assembly appears unlikely to address the issue, just as it didn't vote on the mayor's congestion pricing plan last year.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said if the city wants East River bridge tolls, it can simply transfer those bridges to the MTA.
"We can't just go in and impose tolls as a state, but the city can transfer to the MTA, lease to the MTA. There's no legislation required for it to be done and it should just get done by the city," said Silver.
Silver said the Assembly is ready to implement a new payroll tax, as recommended by the Ravitch Commission.
The Senate leadership has so far not taken a position.
Meanwhile it's not just the MTA doing the lobbying. A broad coalition of transit advocates was also in Albany on Tuesday to press for more transit funding.
"The groups here today have one word for Governor Paterson and the state legislators on the MTA's financial crisis -- help," said Gene Russianoff, Straphangers Campaign.
To prevent a massive fare hike, the legislature will have to take action by March 25. That's when the MTA board takes a final vote on fare increases, which would then go into effect in June.