Broken subway cars. Decades-old buses. Not enough commuter rail stations. Transit riders know the MTA needs money — and so does the MTA.
More than a year ago, the MTA put forward its proposal for a five-year capital investment program to buy new equipment and rebuild its infrastructure.
Unfortunately, over the last year, our elected officials have dragged their feet in committing the funding needed to make the MTA’s $26.8 billion plan a reality. As of this summer, the plan still had an $11 billion funding gap.
But now, as the MTA says time is running out before it must begin construction or risk causing additional delays and budget overruns, a deal is getting closer.
In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo committed $8.3 billion in state funds. He indicated that his plan would not require the MTA to take on additional unsupported debt that could translate into fare hikes and service cuts for riders.
News reports indicate that Mayor Bill de Blasio has offered to increase the city’s commitment to the five-year capital program beyond its originally planned $657 million. That would bring it closer to the $3.2 billion that Cuomo has requested.
And now, with a deal so close you can see its headlights in the tunnel, the governor and mayor must take steps to fill the remaining gap in the MTA’s capital budget.
Cuomo should add detail to his $8.3 billion commitment and tell the public with more specificity where the money will come from and in what time frame. Given recent history, we need to be sure the state does not plan to raid existing sources of transit funding to pay for its new commitment.
De Blasio should significantly increase the city’s proposed contribution to the MTA capital program. The city runs on transit, and it should pay more than the small sum the mayor has publicly committed.
With an increasingly narrow gap to fill, we are optimistic that our elected leaders can come together to choose fair, sufficient and lasting sources of funding that support a new generation of transit service in the region.
If they don’t, it’s the riders who will suffer.
John Raskin is executive director of the Riders Alliance. Gene Russianoff is staff attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.