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DailyDose

The MTA loses $6 Billion a year and no one cares...

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New York City is the center of capitalism and financial markets, however, hiding underneath the towering skyscrapers is an organization that defies the free market forces by siphoning off increasing amounts of city and state taxpayer dollars. This is organization is the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA), which loses on average more than $6 billion per year dating back to 2009. If the MTA were a company in a functioning free market, it would have filed bankruptcy and restructured a decade ago. Instead, the city and state increase taxpayer subsidies and debt year after year, while acquiescing to union demands, resulting in one of the highest costing, least productive transit systems in the world.

 

Read More: https://medium.com/@johnnyknocke/the-mta-loses-six-billion-dollars-a-year-and-nobody-cares-d0d23093b2d8#.gxwqx7uzl

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What a ridiculous union-bashing article. "Free market salaries" is a nice way to put completely screwing over public workers so that, as in the free market, they make pennies while CEOs reap in millions. This is the kind of thing you get after taking Econ 101 and declaring yourself an expert in policy. The free market is so successful? Let's discuss the grotesque inequality in the free market labor force, the entire 2008 financial crisis, and a whole lot more. Not to mention, public transportation agencies never--I repeat, never--operate at anything other than a loss. They are subsidized by the government so that people can use them without paying $8/ride, and that's a good thing; they are what our taxes go to, and with good reason. Privatization has historically failed nearly everywhere it's been tried--just look to London, where the Thatcher-era privatization of the Underground was catastrophic, and has taken years to essentially completely undo. The comparison to China is not analogous for a variety of reasons, and while there is waste in the MTA and there are problems with the union--I happen to think Samuelsen is terrible, and Toussaint was a far better leader--the answer is not bankruptcy (a total disaster) or privatization (which just shifts the costs onto customers directly, rather than through taxation, which is at least mildly progressive). The answer is greater investment from the state, a fairer tax system, and some restructuring of the RFP and construction process. Lobbyists need to be out of the picture. There's a lot to be done, and this article has none of the answers.

Edited by MHV9218
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The article also overlooks the true problem of the MTA: not that it is a public entity, but it is a bizarre animal living in shades of grey, being neither entirely public nor entirely private.  In Massachusetts a few years ago, it was decided to rein in public-benefit authorities such as the Turnpike and MBTA, which led to consolidation under the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.  Since the 2009 reorganization by MASSDOT, the Commonwealth has saved millions annually in expenses.  I've been saying for years that something similar should be done in New York- a genuine solution would not involve neoliberal BS (the free market is an oxymoron; it ain't free and never was), but rather the partial dismantling of the MTA and folding their operations into the State DOT (railroads, bridges/tunnels) and City DOT (subways, buses).  

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What a ridiculous union-bashing article. "Free market salaries" is a nice way to put completely screwing over public workers so that, as in the free market, they make pennies while CEOs reap in millions. This is the kind of thing you get after taking Econ 101 and declaring yourself an expert in policy. The free market is so successful? Let's discuss the grotesque inequality in the free market labor force, the entire 2008 financial crisis, and a whole lot more. Not to mention, public transportation agencies never--I repeat, never--operate at anything other than a loss. They are subsidized by the government so that people can use them without paying $8/ride, and that's a good thing; they are what our taxes go to, and with good reason. Privatization has historically failed nearly everywhere it's been tried--just look to London, where the Thatcher-era privatization of the Underground was catastrophic, and has taken years to essentially completely undo. The comparison to China is not analogous for a variety of reasons, and while there is waste in the MTA and there are problems with the union--I happen to think Samuelsen is terrible, and Toussaint was a far better leader--the answer is not bankruptcy (a total disaster) or privatization (which just shifts the costs onto customers directly, rather than through taxation, which is at least mildly progressive). The answer is greater investment from the state, a fairer tax system, and some restructuring of the RFP and construction process. Lobbyists need to be out of the picture. There's a lot to be done, and this article has none of the answers.

That seems to be what everyone says... The state should invest more.  The question is how much more and on what?  I don't agree with the idea of throwing good money after bad.  There needs to be accountability.  A prime example is the (MTA) buying all of these new buses.  Reliability overall is rather questionable despite the high costs, and spending all of this money on USB ports and other non-necessities when bus service is atrocious is a prime example.  Putting Wi-Fi on trains seems to take more precedence than trains running on time or having subway stations that look like they're part of 21st century.  

 

I would first like to see the inflated costs come down and then we can talk about the state investing more.  I also agree with the article that labor costs are out of control.  Just because the cost of living goes up doesn't mean that workers are justified in getting raise after raise.  The private sector sure as hell doesn't work that way...  There are certainly a few things in the article that one should find very troubling:

 

 

 

Truancy resulting in last minute scheduling is a large driver of overtime at the MTA. Over a quarter of MTA employees use more than 15 sick days per year. This is in addition to the 20 annual vacation days employees receive after three years of service. Employees also receive their birthday as a holiday.
Excessive usage and abuse of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another driver of unplanned absences. Once an employee is approved under the act, he or she may take up to 60 unplanned/unpaid sick days per year. FMLA usage is not periodically reported by the MTA, however is 2010 it was revealed to be at 9% in the bus division and 20% in the Staten Island bus division.

In the private sector, I don't know of any company that gives their workers their birthday as a holiday, and I can count the number of times that I've called out sick in the years that I've been working.  I fault the (MTA) to some degree for allowing what is essentially a high school like atmosphere.  This is supposed to be a job...

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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What a ridiculous union-bashing article. "Free market salaries" is a nice way to put completely screwing over public workers so that, as in the free market, they make pennies while CEOs reap in millions. This is the kind of thing you get after taking Econ 101 and declaring yourself an expert in policy. The free market is so successful? Let's discuss the grotesque inequality in the free market labor force, the entire 2008 financial crisis, and a whole lot more.

Ha! Bingo. If everything were given over to free market forces, there would be so many nice things going extinct. Public transportation and free market do not go together.

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All the people who recommend privatizing public transportation conveniently forget that the only reason there is a "public" operator is because the private operators failed and the governments had to bear the load to avoid a catastrophic economic loss from lack of public transportation.

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All the people who recommend privatizing public transportation conveniently forget that the only reason there is a "public" operator is because the private operators failed and the governments had to bear the load to avoid a catastrophic economic loss from lack of public transportation.

Yes and no. In the case of the private companies that folded here in NYC, they were supported partially by subsidies from the public, and allowed to run service (in excess in some cases) since they essentially had an open check book.  

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I would first like to see the inflated costs come down and then we can talk about the state investing more.  I also agree with the article that labor costs are out of control.  Just because the cost of living goes up doesn't mean that workers are justified in getting raise after raise.  The private sector sure as hell doesn't work that way...  There are certainly a few things in the article that one should find very troubling:

 

In the private sector, I don't know of any company that gives their workers their birthday as a holiday, and I can count the number of times that I've called out sick in the years that I've been working.  I fault the (MTA) to some degree for allowing what is essentially a high school like atmosphere.  This is supposed to be a job...

 

According to that wage schedule posted in the article, bus operators make $32.425 per hour, conductors make $30.11 per hour, and train operators make $34.5025 per hour. You can't sit there and say that wages in the low 30s per hour are excessive, especially considering all the passengers they transport per day, and all the conditions they have to deal with.

 

Free dental coverage, a lot of places offer. Hell, both my government job and my part-time job (private sector obviously) offer free dental coverage.

 

The swing shift, like you said, this is supposed to be a job. What are you supposed to do with a little period of time that lasts up to (meaning it could be less) than 4 hours? Say you leave your house at 5AM, start work at 6AM, work until 10AM, stay in the depot until 2PM, work until 6PM, and get home at 7PM. You've been away from your house and family for 14 hours, and you're only getting paid for 8 hours? The half-time swing shift rule is a good compromise between paying your full rate and paying nothing. If anything, the MTA should be blamed for not having peak/off-peak fares to lessen the amount of runs requiring that swing shift.

 

So they get paid for their birthday, but they don't get paid for Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, or Columbus Day. Doesn't sound too unreasonable to me.

 

Calling out sick, I'll give you that, but much of the inefficiency has to do with management, not the workers themselves.

 

Yes and no. In the case of the private companies that folded here in NYC, they were supported partially by subsidies from the public, and allowed to run service (in excess in some cases) since they essentially had an open check book.  

 

He's talking about the BMT & IRT subway systems.

Edited by checkmatechamp13

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According to that wage schedule posted in the article, bus operators make $32.425 per hour, conductors make $30.11 per hour, and train operators make $34.5025 per hour. You can't sit there and say that wages in the low 30s per hour are excessive, especially considering all the passengers they transport per day, and all the conditions they have to deal with.

 

Free dental coverage, a lot of places offer. Hell, both my government job and my part-time job (private sector obviously) offer free dental coverage.

 

The swing shift, like you said, this is supposed to be a job. What are you supposed to do with a little period of time that lasts up to (meaning it could be less) than 4 hours? Say you leave your house at 5AM, start work at 6AM, work until 10AM, stay in the depot until 2PM, work until 6PM, and get home at 7PM. You've been away from your house and family for 14 hours, and you're only getting paid for 8 hours? The half-time swing shift rule is a good compromise between paying your full rate and paying nothing. If anything, the MTA should be blamed for not having peak/off-peak fares to lessen the amount of runs requiring that swing shift.

 

So they get paid for their birthday, but they don't get paid for Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, or Columbus Day. Doesn't sound too unreasonable to me.

 

Calling out sick, I'll give you that, but much of the inefficiency has to do with management, not the workers themselves.

 

 

He's talking about the BMT & IRT subway systems.

 

1. Pensions and healthcare costs are extremely expensive to maintain.  In the private sector, pensions are basically a thing of the past, and they should be.  If people can't retire with their own savings along with anything from Social Security, well that's mismanagement of their money.  I don't believe that (MTA) employees receive full healthcare, but if they do that needs to be changed given how costs have skyrocketed.  Those two things alone increase costs significantly for the (MTA) as they don't increase proportionately with inflation.  

 

2. With regards to salary, you can't just look at how much money one makes an hour, as that doesn't tell the whole story.  You have to look at the overall compensation package vs. ones' productivity, responsibility, skill set, etc.  If you have a good benefits package, that means more money in your pocket, and could more than offset a lower salary. When there's inflation, we in the private sector in managerial positions such as myself can't say oh, my cost of living went up so I need a raise, but that's precisely what happens with (MTA) employees, which is preposterous, and unsustainable, and don't even get me started on how much work some of them don't do.  Yes, some work hard, and plenty of others don't, so their salaries may not be justified, esp. when you look at the entire compensation package.  

 

3. Where did I say that at??  :huh:

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1. Pensions and healthcare costs are extremely expensive to maintain.  In the private sector, pensions are basically a thing of the past, and they should be.  If people can't retire with their own savings along with anything from Social Security, well that's mismanagement of their money.  I don't believe that (MTA) employees receive full healthcare, but if they do that needs to be changed given how costs have skyrocketed.  Those two things alone increase costs significantly for the (MTA) as they don't increase proportionately with inflation.  

 

2. With regards to salary, you can't just look at how much money one makes an hour, as that doesn't tell the whole story.  You have to look at the overall compensation package vs. ones' productivity, responsibility, skill set, etc.  If you have a good benefits package, that means more money in your pocket, and could more than offset a lower salary. When there's inflation, we in the private sector in managerial positions such as myself can't say oh, my cost of living went up so I need a raise, but that's precisely what happens with (MTA) employees, which is preposterous, and unsustainable, and don't even get me started on how much work some of them don't do.  Yes, some work hard, and plenty of others don't, so their salaries may not be justified, esp. when you look at the entire compensation package.  

 

3. Where did I say that at??  :huh:

 

1. I'm not sure what you mean by full health benefits, but the according to the article, they get good health coverage, but they have to pay for it (but their whole family is covered). Again, not something unique to the MTA....that's true for a lot of government jobs.

 

2. Well, teamsters working on City jobs are getting almost $40 per hour plus over $40/hr in benefits (pages 19-20) and the work is comparable (if anything, the MTA employees have it harder since they're dealing with more people and constantly having to open and close the doors). I'm sure you know this (about the teamsters) if you have experience in construction, and government jobs in general are known for having good benefits, so that's nothing new.

 

If you want a raise based of COL alone, nothing's stopping you from negotiating with your boss for one. The minimum wage generally increases every year, as do the prevailing wages, so those are some of the benefits of working as an hourly employee (in addition to additional compensation for overtime). There's advantages to working as a salaried employee (more flexible hours and  stuff like that), so it all comes with the job.

 

3. I'm not sure what you're referring to.

Edited by checkmatechamp13

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DERP DERP DERP.

 

The MTA is meant to be run at a loss. Understand this.

 

The MTA enables the entire region's economy by allowing 6 million people to get to and from work every weekday, and allowing more than half of that each weekend day to travel recreationally. It generates many more millions of dollars in tax revenue every day to the city and state in the form of economic activity that would otherwise NOT HAPPEN if there were no subway, bus, commuter bridge and tunnel, or commuter rail infrastructure in place. Look at what happened during the 2005 strike. Economic activity cratered. Why do you think it's illegal for the TWU to strike? Is it because we are truly life or death vital employees like firefighters, paramedics, or police? Or as it because MONEY is truly life or death to the people that decide whether it is legal or illegal to strike? I say the 2nd.

 

When you add the tax revenue generated for the state and city coffers to the so called "income" generated by the MTA, the end result is most assuredly positive.

 

But I guess this is what happens when you get beanbrain beancountes with the intelligence of 6th graders who don't understand math beyond basic addition and subtraction scrutinizing the MTA's finances on their iPads with their stolen copy of Microsoft Excel.

 

Union labor and work protection laws were responsible for employer sponsored healthcare, the 40 hour work week, minimum wages, paid time off, sick time, workplace safety laws, child labor laws, and a whole other host of middle class boosting initiatives that didn't exist when IRT motorman and street carriage drivers were working 6 or 7 day weeks of 12-16 hour days with no benefits just to make ends meet in Depression era NYC. But I guess it's easier to blame "unions" or, workers themselves, for the MTA's so called financial decline rather than the politicians that have raided the coffers to fund pet projects, failed to fund it to keep up with inflation, have torn down infrastructure that would now be indispensable without replacing any of it, and which constantly flouts half measures like bus rapid transit, congestion pricing, subsidized low income fares, the "F" going express to skip a handful of stations, or CBTC...instead of admitting that it has put the cart before the house building more luxury housing, taller skyscrapers, pricing everyone out of Manhattan while keeping most jobs and attractions there, ensuring long commute times and transit dependency for people who literally have no alternative...driving up the ridership on aging infrastructure without providing for it in the least.

 

Or how about how a large portion of the MTA's budget is debt service cost (read: interest) on municipal bonds issued to Wall Street (tax free for them, by the way, like all munis!) because half the time the MTA is funded, it comes from politicians authorizing the MTA to "borrow more" rather than actually providing the MTA with the funding?

 

I'm getting really sick of reading this bullshit narrative where working people - who have economically been falling behind and on an awful losing streak in the arena of public policy for close to 40 years - are summarily blamed for every f**k up by rich politicians who are kept in the pocket of still richer tycoons of industry who have used government's to strategically lock the average American into a life of indentured servitude where a decent standard of living is just about unattainable. And it is worst of all in cities. And remarkably, no one looks into WHY is everything so expensive, or WHY does government do nothing about the out of control costs, or WHY are wages stagnating as we complete with modern day slavery as our jobs our outsourced to foreign workforces that literally pay workers pennies on the day so that corporate profits are through the roof. WHY are corporations sitting on record piles of cash, executive compensation has returned to pre crisis levels, while the median American's salary has fallen behind year after year, adjusted for inflation, and that's if you believe the official inflation figures which are bullshit since they intentionally ignore the skyrocketing costs of housing and healthcare when they compute them. And WHY are politicians and pundits so willing to exonerate your company of the "burden" of keeping you healthy so that, you know, you can continue to work for them, especially when many jobs still involve working in harmful environments that cause damage to people's bodies they wouldn't be exposed to outside work? All the while suggesting it's only fair that YOU AND YOU ALONE pay for your healthcare, even as it increases beyond inflation and thanks to politicians we are now FORCED to buy insurance (which is not a competitive marketplace) whether we want it or not, even if self employed.

 

I'm getting really sick of people blaming the handful of decent (not great) pensions left, and the few working jobs left that actually pay decent wages for why this economy and the standard of living in most places in the country is in the shitter while the wealthy hoard piles of cash that are greater than people can imagine in this country in plain sight and the average idiot is too f**king dumb to notice. Even as social security is slowly cut, people have to wait longer to collect, are being asked to work well into old age now beyond what is healthy in jobs that are often physically demanding. Social security was never intended to be a retirement plan. It was intended to be insurance against outliving retirement savings so that you could get old with dignity. No one knows how long they'll live. Why should someone have to go out broke and alone just because they had the "misfortune" of mostly good health after a lifetime of faithful service as an employee?

 

In the 1950s, America enjoyed strong infrastructure spending, yet was as capitalistic as ever. The wealthy, despite marginal tax rates of around 90%, were still incentivized to go out and do business, and earn. These tax rates enabled all kinds of infrastructure improvements that gave us the interstate system, connected whole swaths of the country, and enabled people to move out from cities and colonize rural areas into suburbs. An entire family could be supported on one income, healthcare was more affordable, credit was generally provided and utilized reasonably, and an entire generation grew up better. Almost. Except minorities. And somehow the conversation went from Martin Luther King wanting to include minorities in this record prosperity, to where we are now, a cultural rat race to the bottom where we all compete for garbage and seek to be the cheapest, the lowest, the worst, and put the needs of "THE CORPORATION" above the needs of America or its citizens. All ducking in fear of ISIS like morons because some nutjob might shoot up a nightclub and kill a handful of people, but meanwhile BY THE MILLIONS you give up your rights daily, you don't fight for yourselves, and you let them nickel and dime you to death without so much as a peep. You're willing to turn your retirement over to the casino or crash scam on Wall Street with 401k's, because god forbid you work 30 years for a company that they take care of you when you're old. Even as they sit on record piles of cash, and smirk at you while the e-board votes to raise the CEO's pay another 15% this year while your rent goes up 10%, your healthcare 10%, your phone bill 5% and you're lucky if you get a 2% raise instead of 1% at work.

 

Wake up and stop being stupid.

Edited by SubwayGuy
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