New Yorkers Are Overpaying the MTA So New Jersey and Connecticut Commuters Can Ride


This week’s report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer confirms what we’ve long known in our hearts: that Connecticut and New Jersey are merely parasites feeding off of the greatest city in the world.

Like voracious, gape-mawed suburban lampreys — ones with washing machines and, probably, breakfast nooks — the townsfolk of the Camelots surrounding New York have, it turns out, been draining our public transport dollars and hitching an easy ride.

Released on Wednesday, the comptroller’s report is full of bad news for New York riders, with the big reveal being that New Yorkers are paying a so-called “invisible fare” to the MTA. Via a series of subsidies paid through the city’s budget, nickel-and-dime taxes, and direct support for the MTA, New Yorkers are contributing about $130 per household, all before they ever swipe a MetroCard. Taxes levied on things like cab fares and new mortgage initiations make up some of those direct payments — fees many people may not be fully aware of.

But city residents paying subsidies for a system from which all New Yorkers benefit — even those who may not use it very much — isn’t all that surprising or objectionable. As former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once put it, “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.” And we’ve got an ass-load of civilization to show for our outlays here in New York.

The slightly more complex problem is that Connecticut and New Jersey riders appear to be paying less into the system than it costs the MTA to transport those states’ respective loafer-wearing and spray-tanned commuters. Both states contribute, of course — New Jersey solely through the fares each PATH rider pays, and Connecticut through Metro-North, fares as well as a direct subsidy paid from state coffers. But the MTA’s expenses for service to those areas isn’t quite offset by the money the riders pony up.

Here’s how the report breaks it down:

When taking into account Connecticut’s use of the other MTA systems, its attributed expenses are $477 million and its total contribution is $321 million — $156 million short of its 2014 contribution…New Jersey’s contribution, which comes solely from fares and tolls, was $223 million, $65 million less than their proportional expenses of MTA services.

Those numbers are big. And we have every right to be resentful and haughty. But the underpayment is actually a drop in the bucket when you consider how jaw-droppingly expensive the MTA actually is. In fiscal year 2014, the MTA had $13.9 billion in operating costs. So as much as we might want to hate our suburban neighbors, there are probably better reasons than the fact that they’re shorting us by what amounts to pocket change.

The report also notes that Connecticut will be increasing its subsidy payment to $144.8 million in FY 2015, which reduces the underpayment from $156 million to just over $100 million. So there’s that.

Read the rest of the report below if you’d like.

MTA Report Invisible Fare