The report addressed the short-term need to reduce MTA’s 2009 budget deficit, which has more than doubled in recent months to a projected $1.2 billion, with a slew of interesting proposals.
These ranged from a more modest eight percent fare increase to a Mobility Tax on employers in the Metropolitan Commuter District and a general MTA-wide budget belt tightening as we head into a deeper recession.
Most importantly, the Ravitch report stressed the need for the city to invest in mass transit expansion so future New Yorkers can rely less on cars to get around.
Ignoring this last piece of good news - that a state-sponsored commission is actually thinking about the environment, and recommending a plan for sustainable urban development that values mass transit over car use, -elected officials have spent the first week since the report was released blasting the single recommendation in it anyone seems interested in: the Harlem and East River Bridge tolls.
The bridge toll debate has even dwarfed the lower fare hike.
The plan is certainly less than ideal. For starters, the proposed additional travel cost (it would most likely range from roughly $2 to $5) could not come at a worse time.
Tolls would unfairly impact less affluent outer borough residents who commute to Manhattan by car. They would also cause major traffictie-ups, increase commute time, and reduce the days of swift, stress-free bridge rides to a long-distant memory.
Still, the commission took pains to make clear that any bridge toll system put in place now would be modified and improved upon in the future. And the report made clear there would be no tollbooths, which supposedly will reduce the likelihood of rush hour bottleneck nightmares.
Nonetheless these concessions have not pacified irate politicians from both parties who reject a bridge toll plan flat out.
It would be nice if the MTA hadn’t dug itself into a an enormous hole through chronic mismanagement, disregard for the public good, and a stubborn adherence to a long-term business plan so astoundingly poor it could have been drummed up by a roomful of toddlers.
But that’s what happened and now we’re stuck with the consequences. At least the Ravitch Commission made a concerted effort to make the best of a bad situation.