By Philip Newman
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has accused transit officials of using unnecessary, high-priced fuel for a bus fleet in a $39 million waste of taxpayer money.
Hundreds of the more than 1,000 Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bus Co. buses involved serve Queens straphangers.
The MTA, meanwhile, announced it had declared war on what it considers excessive overtime pay, much of it resulting in what the agency said were outdated work rules, poor management and abuse of sick leave.
“New York City Transit and the MTA Bus Co. are literally running out of gas because of their poor spending practices,” DiNapoli said. “They squandered more than $39 million of taxpayer dollars due to outdated, expensive contracts and delayed decision-making,” DiNapoli’s report said.
“Buses don’t need jet fuel and taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it,” DiNapoli said. “There are some clear, decisive steps to cut excessive fuel spending that the MTA should work with to lower its fuel bills and maintain accurate records for how the bus fleet buys and uses fuel.”
The comptroller said the expensive fuel involved buses of the MTA Bus Co., established in 2004 when the MTA took over seven private bus lines, including several lines serving hundreds of thousands of riders in Queens.
Diesel fuel is used in 78 percent of the 1,323 buses in the fleet with the rest using natural gas.
Meanwhile, the MTA said its overtime had reached $560 million annually, but officials of the agency said plans are to save $22 million this year from tighter management and $60 million next year through what it called “labor-management partnership.”
The MTA said some work rules brought what it called “unnecessary overtime,” including “outdated work rules resulting in some employees being paid when they’re not working.”
The MTA also mentioned other high-cost problems:
• Long Island Rail Road engineers get an extra day’s pay for changing from electric and diesel locomotives “without working one extra minute.”
• A local Queens bus driver gets 12.5 hours pay for eight hours of service, including six hours of paid “swing time.”
• High employee absenteeism is covered with overtime.
“In addition to 37 holiday and vacation days, a quarter of represented [union] transit employees take 15 or more sick days each years,” the MTA said. “These are filled with overtime.”
The MTA also said some workers use overtime to vastly increase their pensions.
President John Samuelsen of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union said the MTA disregards that great numbers of the agency’s employees work in deplorable and dangerous conditions “breathing toxic fumes,” but the MTA “tries to portray us as slackers.”
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 718-260-4536.