38° Good Afternoon
38° Good Afternoon

Money for MTA budget tops transit groups' wishlists

New York City commuters wait on a platform

New York City commuters wait on a platform as a train arrives at a subway station in 2012. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Making sure the MTA has enough money to get new subway cars and buses, fix tracks and maintain other equipment for smooth day-to-day service is at the top of transit organizations' agenda for 2015.

A group of seven New York transportation advocacy groups -- Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives among them -- for the first time has put out a 10-point transit agenda to press lawmakers and policy officials to make sure the MTA's five-year $32 billion plan to expand and keep the system in good working order is fully funded.

This has been a main concern for transit watchers, including the former leaders of the MTA who last week pressed leaders to keep the MTA in good financial health.

Riders' bottom line is at risk, said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance.

"If the MTA has to borrow the money without new revenue sources, the only options that it'll have to balance its books is to increase fares or reduce service," Raskin said.

The groups also want real estate development to pay for transportation improvements, such as the builders of the One Vanderbilt skyscraper in east midtown covering improvements to Grand Central Station. The No. 7 train extension, likewise, was paid for through the Hudson Yards construction on the far west side.

"In order for infrastructure to keep up with development, we'll need to make sure some of the new funds from the development sites are supporting public transit," Raskin said.

Other priorities the groups stressed include getting more data from the MTA like rider complaints and expanding the network of fast bus routes in the city.

Joan Byron, policy director at the Pratt Center for Community Development, which signed onto the agenda, said the city's population is growing in neighborhoods without easy access to the subway, with riders changing up patterns.

"People are traveling cross-borough much, much more," Byron said. "It's a physical impossibility to serve that need with subway lines but you can do pretty impressive things with buses if you put your mind to it."

She warned against paying for these transit projects by saddling the MTA with more debt.

"We're putting this stuff on a credit card," she said, "and the way we pay down the credit card bill is through fare hikes."

News photos & videos