2004-07-02 / Front Page

Delay In MTA Takeover

By Miriam Rosenberg
Contributing Editor

By Miriam Rosenberg
Contributing Editor

The Bloomberg administration and the MTA continue to blame the six-month delay, announced last week, of the MTA takeover of the seven subsidized bus lines in the city on the State Assembly's failure to pass the same version of a bill passed by the State Senate permitting the takeover. The private companies, which were to be taken over on July 1, include Jamaica Buses, Green Buses and Triboro Coach that serve the Rockaways.

City Councilman John Liu, Chair of the Transportation committee, told The Wave why he doesn't see it that way.

"I know for a fact that the Assembly kept pursuing, for months, information on what the MTA was going to do with the takeover," explained Liu, who said that the Senate basically rubber-stamped the bill. "The Assembly gets a package at the last minute and the mayor and the MTA wanted the Assembly to rubber stamp it. The Assembly wasn't going to do that especially when it had potential cuts to service in Queens."

Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said the Senate version protected workers and provided for service improvements. Yet David Katzman, of TWU Local 100's press office, explained it "did not protect workers rights and gave the MTA the right to make 25 percent cuts in bus service without any public review" - two points that the Assembly's bill addressed.

Approximately 400,000 riders use the private buses daily. During the renegotiations between the city and the MTA, Barowitz said that things would remain "status quo" until the new deadline on December 4.

Liu said things will not remain status quo and haven't been status quo for the last two years.

"Every week we have buses break down with no replacements," said Liu. "Service goes further and further down the tubes. Saying things remain status quo shows how ignorant the MTA and the administration are about what is happening with the bus service."

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr., a member of the Transportation committee and the Chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee, also believes that the new extensions will only worsen the situation.

"If we are going to wait until December, we have over 80 [broken down] green buses sitting on the bus lot with buses not being replaced, we are not painting a rosy picture ahead," said Addabbo. "Then after the takeover, there's a lot of uncertainty.

"It's an unfortunate situation. Our residents are eagerly awaiting better service. We have the opportunity to improve service, especially here in the Rockaways."

The MTA and city have a contingency plan that does not require legislative approval if the two houses do not pass the necessary legislation.

"The MTA will take over the buses, but won't have legislative approval to put them into the MTA [system]," said Barowitz. "If there is no legislation by December 4, the MTA will take it over as an independent entity and there won't be much change."

"[The buses] won't have the economics and efficiencies that come with being part of a larger entity like sharing fuel, depots, mechanists and parts."

Barowitz did say that procurement for new buses are currently in the works.

"It takes a long time," he said.

The extension for a December 4 takeover, is the latest in a long struggle that has been going on for almost two years by the city to get the MTA to take over the private lines.

An agreement for a July 1 takeover was announced in April. Since then everyone from city council members to those who work at the companies to the general public have received little, if any, updates on details of the plan.

According to a Liu press release on June 11, with only 19 days until the operation of the buses were to be turned over to the MTA, the city and the MTA refused to testify about the plans at a hearing of the Transportation Committee. The explanation for not testifying was that public testimony would hurt current negotiations.

Addabbo believes that such treatment by the MTA and the city shows disrespect for the members of the council and the riding public in general.

"The mayor and the MTA need to change course and deal with it more professionally," said Addabbo.

Addabbo feels that more hearings need to be held and that the committee needs to "Use legal means to get [the MTA, the DOT and the city] to show and answer questions." The legal means Addabbo is referring to is the council's power of subpoena.

Liu agreed with Addabbo on both counts.

"We will do whatever is necessary to force the mayor and the MTA to show up," said Liu said.


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