New York City

Un-‘fare’! Stringer says NYC overpays for MTA

MTA: Stringer uses ‘fuzzy math’

May 27, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An analysis released this week by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer says the city’s taxpayers are laying out more than their fair share for Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) services. AP photo
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An analysis released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer says the city’s taxpayers are laying out more than their fair share for Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) services.

The analysis comes as the MTA seeks more money for its $32 billion five year capital plan, which is only half funded.

The city’s contribution to the MTA has averaged $100 million for the past decade, an amount Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month would increase to $125 million a year for five years.

But city residents actually kick in over $10.1 billion annually, according to the report.

“When it comes to paying for the MTA, New York City residents and businesses bear a much larger financial burden than we ever knew before,” Stringer said in a statement. “In addition to the $5.3 billion city residents paid in fares and tolls, New Yorkers paid $4.8 billion in taxes, subsidies and direct expenditures to the MTA last year — that’s the equivalent of every New York City household contributing $130 per month to the MTA’s coffers before they step onto the subway platform or pay a toll.”

New York State’s contribution to the MTA’s operating budget in 2014 was only an eighth of what the city contributed in taxes and subsidies (excluding fares and tolls), the report said. The federal government doesn’t contribute to the operating budget, but has pledged to fund $6.8 billion (30 percent) of the 2015-2019 capital budget. According to the report, the U.S. should contribute between $1.6 and $4.6 billion more than this.

Stringer called the MTA “a critical engine of our regional economy,” deserving of more funding from every level of government.  

“But any conversation about how to fill the MTA’s budget gap must acknowledge that the city already contributes more to the MTA than it gets back in services, and that Albany must step up to the plate with greater support,” he said.

The Mayor’s office backed Stringer’s analysis. “We welcome the Comptroller’s report, which underscores a fundamental reality: New York City and its taxpayers have disproportionately subsidized the MTA, particularly after years of declining state investment,” de Blasio spokesperson Amy Spitalnick told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday. “As the Mayor has made clear, we’re committed to working with the state and our regional partners to find a long-term plan for this vital state authority.”

Spitalnick pointed out that de Blasio has increased city funding for the MTA to the highest level since 2000, and was looking for more money from the state and at the federal level.

“This month, the Mayor led a bipartisan coalition of mayors to Washington to fight for fair federal funding for our transportation infrastructure, and he has made clear that the state must do more to fund the MTA’s capital shortfall, especially after years of declining investment,” she said.

MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz, however, debunked Stringer’s analysis.

“It is incredible that the Comptroller acknowledges in the very first paragraph of his report that ‘the MTA needs more funding from every level of government,’ but uses fuzzy math to justify letting the city off the hook for using some of its billions in future surpluses to pay its fair share for mass transit,” he told the Eagle.

An agency source told the Eagle there were several reasons the comptroller’s math doesn’t add up. The source said the report counts the fares and tolls paid by city residents as part of the city’s contribution to the MTA. (City residents contributed approximately $5.3 billion in fares and tolls in 2014. The remaining $4.8 billion was paid from the city’s budget and from taxes, fees and subsidies.)

The source also objects to the idea that the $1.4 billion city-funded extension of the 7 train should make up for years of flat contributions.

An Independent Budget Office report issued in January excluded funding for the 7 train extension in its calculations, as the project was motivated by the city, not the MTA, according to Capital New York.

Without a fully-funded capital program, the source said, the MTA will be unable to keep its existing system in state of good repair, relieve overcrowding or add capacity.

MTA serves 15.1 million people in New York City, Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut.

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