May/June 2000, p.11

Fare Hikes, Debt and Disaster Loom For NYC Subways and Buses
Governor Pataki's Undeclared War on NYC Transit:
Mayor and NYC Assembly Reps Silent as Debt Steam Roller Heads Our Way

Come on it - there's plenty of room! The MTA fought this Straphangers ad, saying it would discourage ridership. Riders face worse conditions to come.It's the King Kong of governmental irresponsibility and it's bearing down on the NYC transit system. Despite heated opposition, Governor Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno are about to drop a gigantic debt bomb on New York City transit riders. They intend to borrow $25 billion in new bonds-the biggest loan in New York State's history. When this bomb detonates it will blow your fare through the roof-think $2.50 per ride and transit service sinking in an ocean of red ink.

For the Governor the idea is cynically simple. Borrow tons of money now. Let the next generation pay it back. Bankrupt the future of mass transit in New York City. Get away with murder.

Worse yet, when repayment comes due starting in five years, it will consume most of the money that now goes to maintenance, cleaning and keeping the system in good order. Picture the subway system of the early '80's, complete with fires, littered trains and frequent breakdowns.

The debt bomb plan is heatedly opposed by the NY Times, NY Post and Daily News, the influential Straphangers Campaign, every transportation reform and good government group (including T.A. and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign), the transit unions and big business groups. Even construction industry groups, which stand to profit now, oppose the plan because of its dire consequences. Unfortunately, it looks like this broad array of opponents will not be enough to overcome the seductive political fantasy of buy now, pay later.

To automatically send a message to Pataki, Silver and Bruno, go to the Straphangers Campaign website at

Or write, fax, email Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly- he represents the Lower East Side. Tell him not to bankrupt the future of our subways and city. Urge him to oppose this cynical and destructive plan.

T.A. Recommendations

Good public policy dictates that support from transit come from all or some of the sources shown below. Unfortunately, most are considered politically unfeasible. Ironic.

  • Increase state aid to NYC Transit
  • Increase city aid to NYC Transit
  • Transit capital tax on large employers in NYC
  • Tolls on East River bridges: revenue to fund bridge repair and subway service
  • Appoint a blue ribbon panel of legislative leaders, MTA officials, business leaders and transportation experts to devise a responsible transit funding plan.

Write to:
Speaker Sheldon Silver
270 Broadway, Suite 1807
New York, NY 10007
Phone: 212-312-1420
Fax: 212-312-1425

Governor George Pataki
Executive Chamber
Albany, NY 12224
Phone: 212-681-4580
Fax: 212-681-4643

Highlights of Transit Mega-Disaster

  • $0.25 fare hike this fall: ongoing reduction in state aid means riders pay more.
    o Debt bomb: $25 billion in 30-year bonds. The ultimate in borrow now, let somebody else pay later.
  • No state support for the MTA: by comparison, during '80's and '90's, the state provided $2.4 billion to transit.
  • Shift of $1 billion from NYC Transit to suburban rail: NYC residents comprise 91% of riders, but will get 77% of funds.
  • City riders pay future suburban rail debt: complicated commingling of city/suburban transit rips off city riders.
  • No Second Avenue subway: delayed start means it sinks in ocean of red ink.
  • Drastic service cuts: not now, but in four or five years when money for service starts going to debt payments.

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