MTA Chairman Janno Leiber says tears over NYC’s ‘social fabric’
The explosion of fare suppression on New York City’s subways and buses is “rending the social fabric” of the Big Apple while taking an ever-heavier toll on the financially strapped MTA, which trickles down to paying straphangers, according to the chief executive Agency, Janno Leiber. said Tuesday.
In a meeting with the Post’s editorial board on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman argued that the combination of increased fare enforcement and a spate of additional patrols by NYPD officers during overtime hours helped restore straphangers’ confidence in the system.
But the rampant fare evasion that began with the pandemic remains a thorn in his side, and a problem that threatens to exacerbate an already estimated $600 million deficit for fiscal 2023, which in FY24 and FY25 was 1, $2 billion and could explode to $1.6 billion in ’26.
“It’s not just a question of money, although it’s a huge, huge financial issue,” Lieber said. “Footballing tears apart the social fabric, to put it that way.”
The MTA meeting comes just a day after Lieber traveled to Albany to address state lawmakers about Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bailout plan for the agency, whose ongoing budget deficits have skyrocketed as ridership fell in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent explosion in the number of struggling employees working from home.
“I look at the subway — and I’m a bit romantic — it’s our public square. This is where people largely form their opinions on what it means to be part of this crazy experiment,” Lieber said, providing a philosophical argument for a groundbreaking crackdown.
“You’re in close quarters with all sorts of people. Can we all get along? Or do we have to drive around in separate cars with 10,000 pounds of steel protecting us from each other,” he continued. “When people start breaking the rules, it becomes very quick: why should I play by the rules?”
He concluded rhetorically, “Why do I have to pay?”
Hochul’s budget includes $1.6 billion in aid for 2024 and at least $1.3 billion for each subsequent year. That package would still require the MTA to increase fares and tolls by 5.5 percent this year, bringing the cost of a swipe down to $2.90.
About a third of the bailout — $500 million annually — would come from City Hall’s budget, a proposal that Mayor Eric Adams strongly opposes.
Tariff overruns were an ongoing problem at the MTA, costing the agency at least $200 million a year in the pre-pandemic era.
Then-head of the MTA division that operates the city’s subways and buses, Andy Byford, launched a high-profile advertising campaign and urged additional enforcement to curb turnstile hopping.
https://nypost.com/2023/02/07/mta-chairman-janno-leiber-says-fare-beating-tears-at-social-fabric-of-nyc/ MTA Chairman Janno Leiber says tears over NYC’s ‘social fabric’