E.J. and I had a podcast chat this morning to run through some of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)’s 2009 payroll data, released last week by the Empire Center’s seethroughny.net .

The data show that last year, the MTA’s 74,708 workers earned nearly $5.92 billion in cash pay (not including health-care costs or money set aside for future pensions). Payroll was up by nearly $75 million, even as the number of workers fell by nearly one percent.

The average worker took home more than $69,000, up 2.4 percent from 2008, even as personal income fell in the New York City job market by 3.3 percent. More than 10 percent of workers took home six figures, including many commuter-rail engineers and others who more than doubled their base salary, often because of overtime related to work rules.

As E.J. and I note in the discussion, the data help cut through some of the noise surrounding the two MTA topics du jour: token-booth cuts and student MetroCards.

The first issue: For the past week or so, MTA honcho Jay Walder has warned that a court order forcing him to hold public hearings before cutting 400 token-booth clerks is costing his agency $40,000 per day.

But higher wage costs between 2008 and 2009 cost more than $205,000 daily.

If Walder could have held the average booth-clerk wage to the 2008 level of $54,000, instead of watching it rise to $55,884, those savings alone cost have saved 30 booth jobs at the 2008 rate.

The second issue: Today’s papers report that 2,400 high-school students will walk out of school this afternoon to protest Walder’s plans to start charging students half-fare MetroCards this fall (currently, the kids ride free).

The measure is supposed to generate $46.5 million (and double that when Walder phases out free fares altogether). The $46.5 million in initial savings from ending the free fares are only $127,000 a day.

To recap, then: keeping wage costs at 2008 levels would have solved two of the MTA’s biggest problems — token booth closures and phasing in student fares — with nearly $38,000 a day left over.

Listen to the whole thing!

You may also like

MTA: Overtime down, take our word for it

Every year for over a decade, the Empire Center has submitted Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the payrolls of MTA corporate subsidiaries. And in almost every one o Read More

Thanks to Unions, NYC’s School Reopening Deal Was Costly and Educationally Hazardous

New York City schools reopened this fall under terms dictated by the city's teacher and principal unions. Now, as city schools close -- once more at the unions' behest -- the city is left with thousands of extra teachers hi Read More

De Blasio’s (Apparent) Good Move Dissolves Into Phony “Savings”

Late Thursday, as hailed in this space, Mayor de Blasio finally made a decisive move—or at least seemed to make a move—in the direction of actually saving some money on labor costs by getting tough with a powerful (and powerfully self-entitled) municipal union. Read More

Cahill Charges Are An Indictment Of Cuomo’s Policies

Yesterday’s indictment of the state’s top construction union official on federal corruption charges raises a big question: if private companies are paying bribes to avoid having to work with certain construction unions, why is Governor Cuomo insisting that the state keep doing it? Read More

Cuomo’s ‘Reinvent Policing’ Order Dodges Confrontation with Police Unions

Governor Cuomo has ordered local governments to “reinvent” their police departments or risk losing state and federal funding, but the back-up guidance from Cuomo's office sets up an arduous process that likely will conflict with other parts of state law. To put it plainly, the guidance shows the state’s “New York Tough” governor won’t take on its police unions. Read More

Lawmakers Look To Dump More Public Cash On Teamsters

State lawmakers this week moved to make public construction more expensive in a bid to steer work to one of New York’s struggling construction unions. Read More

Big Apple Pols Have Played Both Sides in NYPD Fight

New York City’s police department has come under criticism in recent days, with some city officials saying NYPD funding should be reduced. But many of the same New York City Council members parroting calls to “defund” the NYPD were just a year ago pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio to give city cops a big pay hike. It’s a reminder that New York’s elected officials, no matter how principled, routinely don’t want to say “no” to public-sector unions. Read More

Union pay remains non-“prevailing”

Barely one in five private construction workers in New York State was covered by a union contract last year, according to newly released statistics that call into question a state public works "prevailing wage" mandate that assumes 30 percent union coverage of building trades occupations across New York. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!