M.T.A. Nixes E-ZPasses for Former Board Members, Families

ezpasshiddenpeanuts M.T.A. Nixes E ZPasses for Former Board Members, FamiliesThe board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted unanimously today to rescind the free E-ZPass privileges of former board members, their families, and the families of current board members.

"They can’t exempt themselves from the very policies … that they’re asking the riders to bear," Gene Russianoff, attorney for transit advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign, said, referring to fare hikes.

The decision came after close to an hour and a half of deliberations behind closed doors. Fifty-two former board members and 34 current members will be affected.

And at least one of them is upset. Warren S. Dolmy, who served on the board from 1989 to 1996, called the perks "a gift that was given to me" and one that shouldn’t be taken away. The free passes save him roughly $2,500 each year, but the cost to the M.T.A. "is like a postage stamp on a football field," he said.

Mr. Russianoff agreed that the issue was not about economics but about credibility and accountability.

"The board suffers in its credibility with the riding public," he said. If it’s a financial burden for board members such as Mr. Dolmy, "it is for the other 10 million people who ride MetroNorth, the Long Island Rail Road and the subways and buses."

In May, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to the M.T.A. entitled "Illegal Compensation of Board Members," urging the agency to review its policy of granting lifelong free E-Z Passes and Metrocards to its board members.

Next month, the M.T.A. board will vote on proposed amendments to the 2005-2009 capital budget.