Cuomo vetoes an M.T.A. accountability bill as ‘unnecessary’

New York City subway. (via Vincent Desjardins)
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Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would require the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to account more fully for the impacts of the service cuts it has undertaken since the start of the recession.

In a message sent to the legislature on Friday, Cuomo described the legislation as "unnecessary."

The act in question, sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Brennan of Brooklyn, would have required the M.T.A. to deliver a detailed report to the governor and legislature by the end of this year. The report would have had to document for all service cuts since January 1, 2008, the number of customers affected and where they live, a comparison of the actual revenue saved versus how much the M.T.A. predicted would be saved, and "a detailed plan for full restoration of services that have been eliminated or reduced since January 1, 2008; or, alternatively, a detailed plan for equitable restoration of subways, buses, and commuter rails that substantially mitigates the negative impacts of such service reductions and eliminations."

(You can read the whole bill here.)

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The recession undercut the economically sensitive revenue streams the M.T.A. relies on to support its operations. Though the economy has improved since then, most of those cuts have yet to be restored.

Nevertheless, Cuomo argued that some of the events in question "are almost six years old."

"The Sponsors have proffered that this bill would 'provide a clear picture of the service cuts and eliminations' that were implemented. But there already is a 'clear picture' before any service reduction or elimination takes place," said the governor's message.

Cuomo has little reason to worry about his political support in the Democratic stronghold of New York City, and as governor, he has yet to express any real interest in mass transit.

Brennan had no immediate comment.

Later today, Cuomo is also expected to veto a separate piece of transparency legislation, known as the lockbox bill, that would require the governor to publish an impact statement whenever he diverts money intended for the M.T.A. elsewhere.

Here's Cuomo's statement on the Brennan bill, in full:

VETO MESSAGE - No. 238

TO THE ASSEMBLY:

I am returning herewith, without my approval, the following bill:

Assembly Bill Number 6249, entitled:

"AN ACT in relation to directing the New York city transit authority and the metropolitan transportation authority to report to the governor and the legislature on transportation service reductions and eliminations occurring since January 1, 2008"

NOT APPROVED

This bill would direct the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and its subsidiary, the New York City Transit Authority (collectively, the "MTA"), to report to the Governor and the Legislature by December 31 of this year on transportation service reductions and eliminations made since January 1, 2008. This report, covering some events that are almost six years old, would compare anticipated savings to actual savings; calculate how much it would cost to "fully restore" service; and set forth a "detailed plan" for either "full restoration" of service or for what the bill calls "equitable restoration" of the cuts.

In implementing service reductions, the MTA has conducted a comprehen- sive, transparent analysis of the needs of the communities impacted and the resources available to meet those needs. Federal law and the MTA's own policies require robust public participation in considering all major service reductions. For example, in March 2010, the MTA conducted nine public hearings on proposed service changes at locations in West- chester, Nassau, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, Suffern, and Riverhead. Members of the public and interested parties were invited to submit written comments on the proposed changes at those hearings, and could also comment on the service proposals at MTA commit- tee meetings before the MTA Board vote and at the MTA Board meeting at which action was taken on the proposed changes.

In proposing service reductions, the MTA analyzes ridership trends and demands, geographical coverage, and other data as it seeks to balance the many competing needs of an integrated transportation network. Indeed, in conducting the analysis for the 2010 reductions, the last major round of service reductions, the MTA followed guidelines issued by the Federal Transit Administration to examine, in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, whether the proposed service changes would have any discriminatory impacts on minority and low-income communities. Based upon this very public analysis, no discriminatory impacts related to the proposed service changes were found.

The Sponsors have proffered that this bill would "provide a clear picture of the service cuts and eliminations" that were implemented. But there already is a "clear picture" before any service reduction or elim- ination takes place. Moreover, the MTA announced this past July that it would implement $18 million in service enhancements to its bus, subway, and commuter train systems as a result of its mid-year financial plan review, restoring some of the services eliminated in 2010.

Thus, what this legislation purports to seek already exists; it is unnecessary.

The bill is disapproved. (signed) ANDREW M. CUOMO ____________