Winter 2001, p.13


Transit Funding Smashed

Pataki Long on Promises, Short on Money
The defeat of the $3.5 billion transportation bond Act in November, plus the release of the governor's budget in January, spell big trouble for the MTA / New York City Transit's plans to rebuild the subway system and buy new subways and buses. The MTA faces a $320 million shortfall this year in capital funds. (Note: The MTA is the parent agency of NYC Transit, and also includes Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road. City subways and buses account for about 90% of all transit trips by MTA agencies). Following is some of the bad news faced by NYC transit riders:

The state transportation budget favors the suburbs over the city
It is likely MTA will get an equal $250 million from the Port Authority. However, this money is likely to go to the LIRR - Grand Central Connector, which is a good project, but will serve relatively few people. This is amazing, since Port Authority revenue is largely generated by NYC motorists and companies. This money may not exist if the Port Authority fare hike is completely rejected.

Unfair funding for NYC Transit
For years, NYC Transit has received about 63-65% of all state transit aid, while moving 81% of the state's transit riders. The LIRR and Metro-North get 22% of state transit aid, and move about 6% of state transit riders. The Governor's budget has $81 million in new operating aid for the MTA, and $39 million for the rest of the state. If NYC Transit got its fair share, it could add the service that is needed to meet increases in ridership.

Governor Pataki's disinvestments in transit repairs
Governor Pataki's budgets have added no new capital transit dollars since he was elected. As a result, the MTA is now in the process of borrowing $7 billion, and refinancing $14 billion of old debt, with no plan of how to pay it back. The same Governor who had the power last October to order the MTA to provide free fares to World Series fans, now says "I hope the MTA will be able to come up with something that allows [projects like the Second Avenue Subway] to go forward."

Promised $800 million in new operating aid to the MTA has disappeared
More operating money means more subway and bus service, cleaner subway cars and stations, and fewer bus breakdowns. The $81 million in new operating funds are part of Governor Pataki's pledge to provide the MTA with $800 million of state aid over five years. Last year's budget had about $24 million in new operating aid for the MTA. Simple math shows that the Governor has three years to come up with the remaining $700 million. This would require a $233 million a year investment in operating funds over the next three years, three times what the governor came up with this year.

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New York / New Jersey
Port Authority Toll Hike Faces Tough Times

In January, environmental activists from Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign rallied for higher tolls outside the Holland Tunnel.
Despite support from environmentalists in New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority's proposed toll hike appears to be headed for defeat. The new tolls were to employ peak-hour "congestion pricing," in which tolls are higher during peak periods and lower during off-peak periods. This sensible method is used elsewhere in the United States and is the basis for how phones, electricity, and airfares are set. Noble prizewinner William Vickrey, a New Yorker, proposed the same kind tolls for NYC more than thirty years ago.

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New York
Gowanus Groups Galvanized

After four years of talks, the state department of Transportation, west Brooklyn Community groups, and T.A., have settled a lawsuit brought by the groups, which charged the state with failing to abide by federal environmental laws. The State DOT agreed to an innovative community participation process and to provide $375,000 for a community technical advisor. This advisor will have the plaintiffs, rather than the State DOT, as its clients, and will attend meetings and produce comments on behalf of the community. The agreement has important national implications and is a model for Mid-Hudson citizen groups who seek a greater voice on the future of the Tappan-Zee Bridge.

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