2007_07_leesander.gifIf you take the Shuttle at Grand Central around 8AM on weekday morning, study this photograph and find this man - it's MTA CEO and Executive Director Lee Sander, and he'll be at the Shuttle platform tomorrow morning!

You've been commenting about future subway and bus fare hikes all day long with some great questions for the MTA. And here's your chance to actually talk to some MTA suits - the MTA says that "senior staff will be out" to talk to customers tomorrow. Here's the rundown:

MTA
: Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO will be at the Shuttle platform in Grand Central Terminal at 8:00 a.m.
NYC Transit: Howard Roberts will be at Utica Avenue station on the 3 and the 4 at 7:30a.m.
LIRR: Senior staff will be at Penn Station between 7:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Metro-North: Senior staff will be at White Plains station between 4:00-5:30 p.m.

More reading material for you - below is the MTA's introduction to its Preliminary Financial Plan for 2008 to 2011 and here are PDFs of Sander's letter about the plan and the presentation given this morning. The overall message is We need to raise fares and tolls because our financial outlook is horrible - and we don't want to cut service.

The MTA's Preliminary Financial Plan for 2008 to 2011 is a first set of proposals that will evolve during the next six months of public and internal review. That’s why you should study it, and then give us your comments and advice. You can send your comments by clicking on the link to the right.

Over the years the MTA has been very successful in providing the kind of service our customers need; as a result, today more people are using public transportation. Ridership on the MTA's subways, buses, commuter railroads, and bridges and tunnels is at record levels, and so are revenues. But steep rises in uncontrollable costs — pensions, health care, debt service, for example — have far outpaced the MTA’s revenue growth, and despite growing ridership and revenues, current fares and tolls still don’t provide enough money to cover expenses.

We know that our region's economy depends on preserving and expanding our network of services. We are totally committed to doing so, and the plan proposes no cuts in service.

The plan does propose a number of actions to close projected budget gaps. Basically, these fall into three groups: first, we are tightening our belts, instituting internal administrative efficiencies, and using technology better to cut costs. Unfortunately this can’t take us all the way to closing the gaps. And so we must also propose modest increases in fares and tolls in all our agencies.

Information will be distributed through take-ones on subways and buses and seat drops on commuter railroads. And the complete Preliminary Financial Plan as well as related information will be posted online. Please read this material thoroughly. Then ask questions and send your ideas using the link above.

Remember: it's about more than fares and tolls. It's about fiscal prudence and the health of our region's economy.