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OpinionEditorial

MTA must find new ways to keep trains, buses running

An MTA rider uses a MetroCard to ride

An MTA rider uses a MetroCard to ride NYC transit. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Straphangers could soon find themselves staring into the oncoming headlights of a 4% fare hike.

While no one ever wants to pay more, look at the upside. We'll get a bus and subway system that stays in the black for at least two years. We'll get a repair program that remains on course. We'll get a transit system that keeps on expanding -- in confused fits and starts.

But New Yorkers deserve better. We need a system built for the needs of the next 100 years. Ridership today has exploded to levels last seen in the 1940s, and the surge is expected to continue. Flexible work hours are keeping trains packed with passengers days, nights and weekends. The system must grow faster and run smarter.

So how can the MTA make this happen?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo empaneled an "MTA reinvention commission" to find some answers. Unfortunately, the group came back last year carrying an empty briefcase. In a report released two days before Thanksgiving -- a time slot guaranteeing obscurity -- the panel stated what the MTA and its overseers have known for years.

The commission says the MTA must find ways to get work done faster and cheaper. It warns of climate change, advises the authority to deliver "a 21st century customer experience" -- whatever that is -- and recommends that the MTA come up with a stable long-range funding plan.

These are hardly great insights. The MTA has spent an eternity struggling to meet such goals. The road toward smooth and steady progress has always been tough, given the absence of a replenishing financial plan.

Companies can help underwrite expansion. The city and MTA have financed the No. 7 train extension to the Javits Center by creating a special tax district on the West Side as new office towers rise there. The MTA can capture new cash from station naming rights. But none of this is a substitute for a new MTA funding mechanism.

There are plenty of ideas out there; now Cuomo and the State Legislature must pick one. Until they find a steady source of new money, nothing much will change except the escalating amount that riders pay.

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