Wanted: Legislators Willing to Do Unpopular Things to Save Public Transportation

ALBANY—Ads like this urging state legislators to do something about the M.T.A.’s $1.2 billion deficit will start appearing in 3,000 subway cars this week.

The ad campaign is funded by the Empire State Transportation Alliance, a coalition of groups hoping to avoid service cuts adopted in December by the M.T.A. under what they are calling a “doomsday” scenario.

Legislators are set to discuss that deficit—including the recommendations of the commission headed by former M.T.A. director Richard Ravitch—this week. State senators will meet Wednesday with M.T.A. officials, who headed up to Albany this morning. Members of the Assembly majority conference are also talking about it this week, several members said.

One of the sticking points is a proposal floated by Ravitch to place tolls on the East and Harlem River bridges. Several senators have already taken positions against that measure.

State Senator Hiram Monserrate stopped me on the Capitol stairs yesterday to clarify his position on the measure, after a report in Crain‘s last Friday that he endorsed the tolls.

“Let me clarify it for record,” Monserrate said. “I think that bridge tolls should only be done as an absolute last resort. And if there were a toll, it should only be during congestion hours.”

The M.T.A. has set a deadline of March 25 for state action.

Wanted: Legislators Willing to Do Unpopular Things to Save Public Transportation