By Ivan Pereira
Speaking at York College's Executive Breakfast Series Friday, MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander said the state agency had to make tough decisions in order to provide better service for the millions of commuters who use city and Long Island buses, the city subway system and the Metro-North and Long Island railroads. Sander said the agency's $6 billion deficit would only grow because of its proposed $29.5 billion five-year capital plan.”The MTA had to go out and borrow, but as a consequence, we face deficits over the next couple of years,” he said. The state and city cut back on their contributions to the MTA in recent years, setting the stage for its current financial situation. Sander said the financial problems would not get better due to the current real estate crisis gripping the nation that costs the city millions in tax revenue, but said he found some solace in the mayor's congestion pricing plan, which died in the state assembly Monday.Since the proposed tax against drivers who enter the city below 60th Street would have provided nearly $4.5 billion in funding, the plan was the best option for the city without draining valuable resources from City Hall, Albany and Washington, said Sander.”I'm certainly familiar with the issues by City Council members, but I think we can handle it technically,” he said. “If it doesn't happen, we need the support from [leaders] to implement the projects.”Sander assured the audience that the city's transit system will not end up in troubled times like it did during the 1970s and proposed service changes will make sure it finds a way to improve efficiently. The majority of the funding from the five-year plan will go to replacing older trains and buses with more improved models, while $5 billion will go into constructing the long-awaited 2nd Avenue subway line in Manhattan.The new line, along with the plans to add more trains to the F line along Hillside Avenue and Queens Boulevard, would help Queens residents travel around the city easier, according to Sander.”We expect 400,000 to 500,000 new jobs in Manhattan over the next couple of years and it is crucial that we get them there from Queens,” he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.