MTA Chairman: Money Not Spent Wisely

Agency head vows big changes

By Andrew Siff
|  Friday, Jan 15, 2010  |  Updated 9:45 AM EDT
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MTA Chairman: Money Not Spent Wisely

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MTA Chairman Jay Walder says he's got big plans for the MTA.

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No more toll plaza on the Henry Hudson Parkway. Bus-only lanes around the city with heavy fines to punish violators. A new commitment to make "every dollar count" -- and layoffs.

Those are among the promises MTA Chairman Jay Walder made during an appearance at the Association for Better New York at which he released his report, "Making Every Dollar Count."

The MTA chair said he was alarmed to learn the agency spends $500 million per year on overtime, and that cutting that expense is a key goal in stretching the cash-strapped agency's money. After 100 days in office, Walder says the MTA is inefficent and redundant. For example, there are 92 different phone numbers to reach various departments.  

"We are Verizon's best friend," Walder quipped. "I cannot tell you the MTA is spending every dollar is receives as efficiently as possible. That needs to be my top priority."

"There will be layoffs," he added.

And Walder has no intention of putting free student Metrocards back in the budget. "Free student fares are the responsibility of the state and the city," he said, indicating he'd need more money to save the program and wouldn't use existing funds to do so.

Walder pledged a "top-to-bottom overhaul of the way the MTA does business" -- one that includes improved cost-management and better enforcement of bus-only lanes, which he said has been poor thus far.

"It would be difficult to go more than a block or two without seeing a car or delivery truck parked in a bus lane," he said.

As for the Henry Hudson Parkway, the toll plaza would disappear as the MTA tests state-of-the-art technology that would allow drivers to pay without stopping.

Walder also wants to make it easier for staphangers to find out when the next train arrives, noting, "you see anxiety and angst" on their faces as they wait worriedly for a ride.

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