Funding the MTA Cap Plan

Guest Blogger: Have you ever missed a flight because of A/E train delays?

By Yisrael Zev, Forest Hills Resident, Queens, New York

Riders at the start of the A Line in Inwood wait 20 minutes for a train to pull into the station.

Riders at the start of the A Line in Inwood wait 20 minutes for a train to pull into the station.

During a recent morning commute, switch problems at Jamaica Center delayed E train service heading towards Jamaica. Such delays are typical of the E train, which is one of the least reliable subway lines in New York (meeting service intervals only 75% of the time, vs. the systemwide average of 80%). The A train fares even worse at 74%. Yesterday morning was a headache for morning straphangers when the A and C trains experienced severe delays due to signal problems at Jay Street. As Mayor De Blasio experienced first-hand on May 4th, the subways aren’t a reliable mode of transportation when needing to get some place on time (the Mayor was riding the subway to a speaking engagement and became “irked” when he waited 20 minutes for a train to come).

This isn’t just a hassle for regular New Yorkers headed to work, appointments, or the like. Because the E and A link to the AirTrain JFK, these lines are a lynchpin of the region’s tourism economy.  Last year Governor Cuomo announced record ridership on the AirTrain JFK — a 250% increase since 2004. As reported by LongIsland.com:

“Total paid ridership on AirTrain JFK in 2014 was 6,487,118, a sharp 8 percent jump from 2013 totals alone. Additionally, more than 10 million passengers and airport employees used the service to travel between airline terminals, parking lots, hotel shuttle areas and rental car facilities. AirTrain JFK began service in late 2003, and in 2004 totaled 2,623,791 paid riders.”

If you are a visitor to the City, you aren’t necessarily in the know about how much extra time you should add to your MTA travel due to the ever-growing delays and breakdowns. According to a 2015 report issued by the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, some 65% of international tourists use the MTA system, contributing $18 billion to the New York economy.

With cab fares into Manhattan from JFK Airport topping over $60, more and more people will turn to the AirTrain JFK as a more affordable option. And whenever there are significant delays on the A and E, travelers could end up missing their planes. Naturally, New York City runs the risk of becoming a less attractive place to visit if this happens too often — a potential direct hit to the region’s wallet.

This is yet another example of what’s at stake by continued disinvestment in the MTA. Bottom-line: the region needs a full commitment from our leaders to fund the MTA’s $32-billion Capital Program. Investment in track and signal systems may not be sexy, but they are the only way to reverse the rising tide of delays such as the recent ones experienced on the A/C/E lines.

The best shot at closing the looming $14-billion gap in the MTA’s budget is for the Move NY Fair Plan to become a reality. Lauded by State and City elected officials, civic leaders, and newspapers across the City, it’s the only viable plan on the table, not to mention the most rational and equitable. It swaps, not increases, the toll burden by lowering tolls on the MTA crossings by up to 48% while imposing modest tolls on the once-tolled-but-now-free City-run East River Bridges.

It’s a sensible and fair way of spreading the costs of using the road network. At the same time, it generates sufficient revenue to fund the MTA’s Capital Plan ($1.5 billion annually toward bonds) as well as desperately needed investments in our failing roads and bridges ($375 million yearly).

The Move NY Fair Plan provides funding for modernizing the subway’s signaling system, reduces congestion, improves travel times by up to 20% in the Central Business District, fills transit gaps for communities left out of the system, and plays a vital role in the Mayor’s Vision Zero goals. No other funding mechanism — from prior years or currently proposed — makes traveling in New York City faster, safer, and fairer. It’s a win-win — not just for New Yorkers but for the millions of tourists who visit.

There’s less than a week left for the NYS Legislature. Let them know you want faster, safer, fairer transportation in and around the city. Without Move NY, we all face a lose-lose scenario.

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