Scott Stringer: NYC needs a commuter tax, new 'X' subway line
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a likely mayoral candidatein 2013, unveiled a plan Tuesday to fill the MTA's coffers with a new tax and to build a new subway line to serve straphangers in the outer boroughs.
Speaking to the Association for a Better New York Tuesday morning, Stringer called for the return of a commuter tax of 0.45% that he said could raise $725 million annually and would be dedicated to transit. A commuter tax was collected between 1966 and 1999 and went toward the city's general fund.
He acknowledged that getting the tax reinstated would require support of state legislators, many of whom are from suburban areas and detest additional taxes.
“The truth is that MTA capital projects benefit suburban commuters as well as New York City residents,” Stringer said. “Everyone needs to pitch in if we want similar expansion going forward.”
Stringer said the next big transit projects should include adding an AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport and adding a subway route — he called it the “X” line — to connect Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The Regional Plan Association first floated the idea in 1996, according to Jeffrey Zupan, a senior transportation fellow for the group.
The “Triboro Rx”, as it was originally dubbed, would “intersect virtually every subway line in the city,” said Zupan, who added that the group was surprised to hear Stringer reintroduce the idea.
“The transit system that we have is oriented to Manhattan,” he said Tuesday. “Very little of the subway system connects the boroughs — you can't go very easily from the Bronx to Queens, for example; you need to go through Manhattan.
“This would eliminate that,” he said.
Zupan said there was no cost estimate for the project, but said it would “in theory” be less expensive than the MTA’s current mega-projects, like the Second Avenue subway, since no tunneling would be required.
Though the service would run along areas already dug out, one challenge, according to Zupan, is that some of the tracks that would be needed are currently being used for freight trains. “One shouldn't think this is a slam dunk,” he cautioned.
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg didn't comment specifically on the feasibility of Stringer's plan to construct a new subway route, but said the agency was encouraged by his proposals to have dedicated funding for transit.
“We're not prepared to endorse oppose or support and of his particular ideas, but we're very glad that he is speaking up and seeing the MTA needs more funding and the entire region needs to find solutions for that,” Lisberg told amNewYork Tuesday.
Stringer's plan to bring a regional tax quickly drew criticism from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who tweeted that it was“bad for the region.” The two exchanged jabs at each other on Twitter yesterday afternoon.