MTA ends transit, toll perks

Metropolitan Transportation Authority boardmembers voted Wednesday to give up their lifetime passes throughthe agency's tolls and transit system, a perk that had drawn fire amid afinancial crunch at the

News 12 Staff

Jun 25, 2008, 11:33 PM

Updated 5,873 days ago

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Metropolitan Transportation Authority boardmembers voted Wednesday to give up their lifetime passes throughthe agency's tolls and transit system, a perk that had drawn fire amid afinancial crunch at the nation's largest mass-transportationagency.
Board Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger called the issue a distraction. "It takes the focus off of real important issues facing theMTA, which is how are we going to do a better job for the 8½million people who use our services every day," he said after themeeting.
Board members voted unanimously with one abstention to restricttheir own use of the passes to official business and to rescind theperk from former board members and family members of current boardmembers.
Board member James Sedore abstained.
The policy applies to passes for MTA trains, buses and subwaysas well as to E-ZPass tags for toll crossings.
The issue arose last month when state Attorney General AndrewCuomo charged that giving lifetime passes to board members violateda law that says they must serve without compensation.
The board initially vowed to fight Cuomo but later agreed tochange the policy.
Cuomo applauded the board's action. "In taking this step, theMTA board now recognizes that no one, including government agenciesand officials, is above the law," he said.
But MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander said the free passeshad not violated the law.
"There's no admission of guilt or illegality in the past,"Sander said. "It's just more important to just get past this issueand deal with what's most important to us ... which is the futureof the MTA and the future of this region."
Sander said the agency was facing a shortfall in real estate taxrevenues because of the economic downturn.
He said a letter would go out to former MTA board members within24 hours asking them to turn in their passes.
At least one former member will not do so willingly.
Warren Dolny, who served on the MTA board from 1989 to 1996,threatened to sue to keep his free ride, which he said was promisedto him for life.
"How can you take away something you gave to somebody?" heasked.
Click here for more coverage on what the board members are losing


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