Our New York metropolitan region’s $1.5 trillion economy is driven, in large part, by our transportation system. It moves people and goods throughout twelve counties twenty-four hours a day.
But it takes money to maintain, modernize, and expand a system built over one hundred years ago.
In September the MTA released its proposed 2015-2019 Five-Year Capital Program budget of $32 billion. The agency charged with operating, maintaining, and improving our transportation network and infrastructure identified a $15 billion gap in funding. In the past, the MTA has taken on heavy debt to meet the budget. Increasing the debt load means higher tolls and fares on existing drivers and riders. Moreover, about 20 cents of every dollar you spend goes to finance debt (i.e., to the banks) rather than reinvest in the transportation system you’re paying for.
According to a recent report issued by NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli: If the MTA were to take on an additional $15 billion in fare and toll-backed debt to fill the gap in its proposed Capital Program, there would be a 15% increase in existing tolls and fares, on top of the twin 4% increases already scheduled for the next two years. Compounded, that comes out to a nearly 25% increase in tolls and fares over the next five years! To put it in terms of real numbers: based on the March increases, the $2.75 subway and bus fare would leap to $3.41; the $8.00 cash toll would top $9.92; and E-ZPass would jump from $5.54 to $6.87!
It’s time to fill the MTA’s funding gap. But not with more debt backed by higher tolls and fares!
The New York State legislature recognized the importance of funding our transportation system nearly four decades ago by establishing the MTA Five-Year Capital Program. In the past, this critical funding has been used for modest expansion and modernization of our roads, bridges, subways, buses, ferries, and commuter rail system. Most recently, funding has gone to constructing the Fulton Transit Center, the Second Avenue Subway, and the new 7 line extension in Hell’s Kitchen, as well as 21st century technologies like countdown clocks, real-time information kiosks, and upgraded signaling systems that have greatly improved the subway and bus riding experience for everyone.
Filling the gap, with new revenue, would expand these technologies to more subway lines, expand BRT/SBS service, and increase overall service to our City’s most transit-starved communities. We need New York’s lawmakers to identify new funding mechanisms that sustain and modernize the system without unduly and disproportionately burdening those drivers and riders who are already paying their fair share.
New York is the Empire State.
Don’t we deserve a transportation system that befits the title?
Send an email to your elected officials, urging them to support a fully-funded MTA 5-year capital plan with new, sustainable sources of revenue.