Closing the MTA Budget Gap
When the MTA announced looming fare hikes last month, it was noted here that the MTA's decision to let Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards, have the Vanderbilt Rail Yards for $100 million was looking like a poor choice. The MTA's own appraisal valued the land at $214 million. And why give away land at a huge discount during a real estate boom with deficits looming?
Well, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. says he's crunched the MTA's numbers and identified enough potential streams of new revenue—$728 million—to close the gap for one year and narrow it in the next, and hopefully stave off a fare hike, at least, for a little while.
“There is no need for a fare increase in 2008,” Thompson said in the report,“Putting the Brakes on the Bus and Subway Fare: Options for Eliminating Fare Increases in 2008 and 2009.” “Before the MTA even begins to consider higher fares and tolls, the State and the City must provide additional funding to MTA New York City Transit that it is rightly owed."
The proposals are:
1. The State of New York should resume its previous practice of funding the State share of the State Transit Assistance Program (“the 18-b program”) from the State General Fund. The State money is matched by localities. In 2002, the State started paying its share out of a separate fund financed by taxes collected only in the MTA region such as the 0.375% additional sales tax. Previously, the MTA was receiving 18-b aid in addition to the money from the separate fund. This shift meant a loss of over $140 million a year in subsidies to NYCT. Total annual revenue: $142.4 million
2. The State cap on the 18-b Assistance Program should be lifted. Total annual revenue: $390.7 ($195.4 from State; $195.4 from City)
3. Adjust the MTA Bridges and Tunnels surplus distribution formula to reflect 39 years of inflation. Then alter the formula again to reflect the distribution of users of the toll facilities (55% city residents). Total annual revenue: Up to $83.5 million redistributed to NYCT from the commuter railroads
4. Stop using dedicated downstate regional transit tax revenue from the Metropolitan Mass Transportation Operating Assistance (MMTOA) fund to finance upstate transit system needs. Instead, fund them from upstate regional taxes or other state-wide taxes Total annual revenue: $13.3 million
5. Adjust the school fare subsidy from the City and State of New York to more accurately reflect actual use of student Metrocards. Total annual revenue: $71.5 million ($32.9 million City, $38.6 million State)
6. Resume the practice of the City funding the deficit of the Staten Island Rapid Transit System. Total annual revenue: $26.4 million
A full copy of the report can be found here.
The MTA released the following statement in response:
"We appreciate the Comptroller's work on this matter and his report's acknowledgment of the vital infrastructure funding needs and $6 billion in deficits we face over the next four years. We have proposed a preliminary plan to close these gaps and address the longer term funding needs. Based on his findings, we hope the Comptroller will partner with us in advocating for the appropriation of this critical funding in Albany and at City Hall."
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