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Posts from the "Elliot “Lee” Sander" Category

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Lee Sander Stepping Down

From the MTA press office:

Governor Paterson today accepted the resignation of MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander. Mr. Sander offered his resignation to the Governor earlier this year in anticipation of yesterday's passage of legislation that joins the Chairman and CEO positions at the MTA. Mr. Sander's resignation is effective May 22, 2009, ending a tenure that began January 1, 2007.

It's no surprise that Sander would be sacrificed, as rumors had been circulating for months that Governor Paterson was looking for a change. Regardless of Sander's achievements during his two-year tenure, WNYC is reporting that Paterson earlier today announced the need for a "leadership shake-up" due to the public's lack of confidence in the agency.

Despite the feckless performance of Paterson and his Albany cohorts during the doomsday debacle, and the short-sighted deal that resulted, we assume the governor managed to keep a straight face.

Follow the jump for the rest of the MTA release.

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Under Sander, How “Bloated and Wasteful” Is the MTA?

sander.jpgPhoto: Brad Aaron
A Monday editorial from Crain's questioned the wisdom of sacrificing MTA head Lee Sander as part of any transit rescue plan, as rumors swirl that Governor David Paterson wants Marc Shaw to return to the agency's top spot.

While making the seemingly obvious argument that maintaining a healthy transit system is vital to the region's economy, the piece (behind the Crain's pay wall) lays blame on the Pataki administration -- during which Shaw previously served as MTA CEO -- for having "loaded up the MTA with debt that’s now coming home to roost."

[Sander] has become a target for those who believe the MTA is bloated and wasteful. In truth, Mr. Sander has wisely streamlined operations and cut costs in his two years in the post. He hasn’t solved all of the MTA’s problems. Who could in such a short time? And he hasn’t been the most effective politician in selling what he has done. But is that really a fault? Shouldn’t the job go to a seasoned transportation professional rather than a politician?

We asked MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan about cost-cutting measures initiated under Sander. The list is pretty extensive. Donovan points to the following efficiencies imposed "even as demand is at levels not seen since the early 1950s": elimination of 410 administrative positions; establishment of Regional Bus Operations, merging three companies into one; creation of a Business Service Center to "consolidate duplicative back office functions"; assignment of managers to oversee individual subway lines; formation of a blue-ribbon panel to "encourage competition and increase bidding on capital construction projects"; and increases in advertising revenue "from $38 million in 1997 to $125 million in 2008."

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House Nixes Funding for Transit Service. Where Is Schumer?

schumer_affordable.jpgChuck, what about keeping transit affordable?
Last night's news about the denial of Rep. DeFazio's amendment to fund transit operations left us wondering whether parliamentary issues were really the deciding factor. In general, it appears, the Democratic leadership is coming down hard against any add-ons to the recovery package. "There's a desire to keep the bill at the size it is currently," said one House staffer involved in the negotiations who wished to remain anonymous. "Pelosi's office and the Appropriations Committee are resistant to amendments that increase the size of the bill."

Now it's up to the Senate to get this provision into the stimulus bill. Bus and subway riders all over the country need Chuck Schumer and rookie Kirsten Gillibrand to earn their keep on this one. New York's Senate delegation has to come out strong for transit operations if American cities are going to stave off a wave of fare hikes and service cuts.

And wouldn't it be nice to see MTA chief Lee Sander ride the train down to Washington and make the case for transit operations? This seems like a golden opportunity for the MTA CEO to campaign on behalf of straphangers and save the fare.

Meanwhile, as Sarah mentioned last night, the focus in the House now shifts to Jerrold Nadler's proposal to add $3 billion for transit capital investments. The people to call today are Nancy Pelosi (202-225-0100) and Appropriations Chair David Obey (202-225-3365). The Speaker, especially, should be trying as hard as she can to make more room for transit investment if she wants to do right by her San Francisco district.

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MTA Budget Proposes Severe Service Cuts, Perpetual Fare Hikes

sander1.jpgElliot "Lee" Sander
As expected, the proposed 2009 MTA budget is rife with grim news. In addition to various cutbacks at the administrative level, the budget and 2009-2012 financial plan -- minus an infusion of aid from the city, state or federal government -- will have a direct impact on transit customers in the form of service reductions and fare increases. From today's press announcement:

"The budget presented today fulfills the MTA’s responsibility to put forward a balanced budget for the coming year,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer. "While we attempted to identify the least harmful cuts possible, they will be painful and no one at the MTA is eager to implement them. Even in a period of austerity, continued investment in the MTA’s critical operating and capital needs must be a top priority for elected officials in Albany, New York City and Washington. That is why Governor Paterson appointed the Ravitch Commission, and we will work hard to ensure that its recommendations are implemented to restore financial stability to the MTA. It powers our economy and we cannot allow the system to move backward at this critical moment."

"The proposed budget presents the MTA Board with extremely tough choices that we must grapple with over the next month," said Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger. "We have an obligation to pass a balanced budget, but we all hope that service cuts and extreme fare increases can be avoided. We will be closely watching the Ravitch Commission and will support its efforts in any way we can, both on the operating budget and also on the critical capital program, which cannot be forgotten."

Before any gap-closing measures are implemented or prior-year carryover is included, the MTA’s budget deficits are projected to reach $1.441 billion in 2009, $2.394 billion in 2010, $2.647 billion in 2011, and $2.972 billion in 2012.

Further details are to be worked out "in the coming months," but the plan calls for a 23 percent increase in toll and fare revenue, with regular alternate-year increases to begin in 2011.

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With Transit System Crumbling, Fox 5 Zeroes in on Sander’s Shiny Shoes

fox5grab.jpgThe crack news team at Fox 5 has gotten to the root of the MTA's financial troubles: Chief Lee Sander's commuting habits.

Watch as "gotcha" guy John Deutzman catches Sander getting a shoe shine (a shoe shine!) at Grand Central after being driven to work in an MTA Police cruiser, then grills the head of the most complex transit system in the United States on how often he rides the train.

Granted, since he is the head of the most complex transit system in the United States, Sander should probably not be caught off guard so easily. Maybe a response explaining the depth of the problem and what it will take to fix it, beyond fare hikes, would be in order -- a politically palatable version of: "Look. I don't think New Yorkers care about my shoe shine. You can be angry with me if you want. I know that fare hikes are tough to swallow. But if you want to be outraged, be angry that the Big Three are in the Senate today lobbying for a $25 billion bailout while the MTA and transit systems across the state and the US are going broke. Be angry that Albany killed congestion pricing. That the city and state stopped paying their fair share to the MTA...," etc.

Still, is this the best the media can do? If so, why not follow Richard Brodsky to work? Or Joan Millman? Or Deborah Glick? Corner one of those guys sitting in traffic and ask them what they plan to do for the transit-riding public now that the service cuts and fare hikes Sander warned of are all but imminent.

Since the craven pols and media clowns are intent on distraction and directing public anger away from where it belongs, maybe MTA improvements in transparency, accounting and messaging are the only means to take these issues away.

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MTA Stares Down Billion-Dollar Deficit as Liu and Weiner Mock Bridge Tolls

cbsgrab1.jpgCoverage of this transit crisis brought to you by Toyota.
MTA chief Elliot Sander announced this morning that the city's transit agency is up against a $1.2 billion budget deficit, and needs government aid or new sources of revenue to avoid fare increases or service cuts. But an expected recommendation by the Ravitch Commission to toll East River bridges is already taking heat from the usual suspects.

Congressman Anthony Weiner and John Liu, chair of the City Council Transportation Committee, competed this weekend for best populist sound bite. Said Liu: "East River bridge tolls get bandied about every time there is a fiscal crisis. The mayor tried to impose them during the dire fiscal straits in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and even then it went over like a lead balloon. This time it will sink equally fast -- to the bottom of the East River."

And here is Weiner's entry: "Tolls on the East River bridges are just congestion pricing by another name. It is a regressive tax on the middle class. It's a way to increase the traffic burden, and frankly it's simply unfair to residents outside of Manhattan."

Naturally, the pandering pols didn't have to go looking for microphones, as reporters also fanned out across the city for quotes from beseiged drivers and doomsaying business owners, who obliged by "blasting" those who would "drop the hammer on everyone" by "slapping" on the "wallet-busting" tolls.

As for funding alternatives, coverage included Liu's reference to an unspecified "broad-based revenue source." And Weiner? As usual, the congressman was all talk, no stick.

Image: WCBS-TV

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The Build for America Plan: Invest in Transportation, Create Jobs

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Janette Sadik-Khan, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Lee Sander. Photo: Paul White.

The Build for America campaign officially launched yesterday afternoon at Grand Central Terminal, one of six events held in cities across the nation. DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan -- joined by MTA chief Lee Sander, U.S. reps Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, and a bevy of advocates -- advanced the case for committing ambitious levels of federal support to modernizing the nation's transportation system.

"America's transportation system is facing a perfect storm of huge costs, declining infrastructure, dwindling resources and dependence on foreign oil," said Sadik-Khan. "And while we're struggling just to fix and maintain our roads, our global competitors are building systems that we simply don't have." The United States does not have a high-speed rail system, she added, and the nation's transit systems are struggling just to keep up with ridership demand.

Most speakers hewed to an economic argument: Federal investment in transportation infrastructure can create jobs as the nation faces the prospect of a deep recession. Investing that money wisely, they said, requires re-orienting spending priorities away from new highway construction and toward rail and transit.

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At Grand Central, Sen. Clinton Calls for Funding Mass Transit

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Clinton was joined by (l-r) Larry Hanley, of the Amalgamated Transit Union, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and MTA chief Elliot Sander

Surrounded by a throng of curious commuters under the clock at Grand Central Terminal last Friday, Sen. Hillary Clinton held a press conference calling for increased federal funding for mass transit, saying municipalities around the country needed a "federal partner to get us over the hump of increased demand."

On August 1, Clinton introduced the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act to the Senate; it has already passed the House of Representatives. The bill would provide $1.7 billion, including $237 million for New York, to help public transit systems keep fares down and prevent service cuts in the face of rising fuel costs and soaring ridership (download the bill).

"Across America places that thought there would never be much demand for public transit are now finding that there is," said Sen. Clinton. "We can't keep burdening public transit systems without giving them the money they need to run." Noting that "we are living off the investments of a prior time," Clinton added that "it is unacceptable that [mass transit] commuters would be burdened with further fare hikes and service cuts.... Commuters should not be penalized. They're part of the solution."

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DOT, MTA Launch 34th Street Select Bus Service Today

34th.jpg
SBS lanes are the first phase of the 34th Street Transitway concept

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and MTA CEO Lee Sander are scheduled to officially roll out 34th Street Select Bus Service at a 1 p.m. press conference today. The new Manhattan route will be the city's second foray into bus rapid transit, following a successful debut on Fordham Road in the Bronx.

The 34th Street route stretches from 1st to 11th Avenues, and its lanes will be enforced from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- unlike those on the Bx12 SBS line, which are only enforced during morning and evening rush. The lanes are in effect as of today.

Sources tell Streetsblog that the city is bypassing Albany by installing stationary automated traffic cameras to keep taxis out of the lanes, but DOT would not confirm ahead of the presser. The media release says that the red SBS lanes are "the first step in a series of improvements planned to improve bus speeds and reliability" along the corridor.

In April, Sadik-Khan announced that 34th Street would eventually be home to the city's first "Transitway" -- a bus/ped/bike plaza closed to cars between 5th and 6th Avenues, with private vehicle lanes on either side of that block converted to one way streets, channeling traffic away from the Central Business District. The SBS configuration to be unveiled today marks Phase 1 of the project as outlined in this DOT slideshow.

Today's press conference is set for the north side of 34th between 5th and Madison.

Image: NYC DOT 

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Will Pricing Be on the Agenda of Newly-Appointed Ravitch Commission?


Earlier this week Governor David Paterson announced appointees to the Ravitch Commission. The 13-member body, headed by former MTA Chair Richard Ravitch, is charged with researching and recommending revenue streams for the MTA in the wake of congestion pricing's initial defeat at the hands of Assembly Democrats.

At least four commission members can probably -- and in some cases, definitely -- be counted as supporters of some form of road pricing: current MTA chief Elliot Sander; NYC Office of Management and Budget Director Mark Page; transportation consultant and former MTA Capital Construction President Mysore L. Nagaraja; and Peter Goldmark, former executive director of the Port Authority and currently with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Since Paterson, who made the commission appointments himself, backed congestion pricing, and since Ravitch has reportedly described pricing as "on his agenda," it's not much of a stretch to assume that the rest of the commission should at least be open to the concept. The question is, with the original proposal's executioners still in office -- and with commission recommendations set to come in December, after the fall elections -- will it matter?

Photo: Michael Nagle/New York Observer