The idea of increasing state funding for the MTA is popular in New York City, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released yesterday. Looking at the MTA service region — NYC plus its suburbs — more people want to see additional funding going to transit. Statewide, support for increased MTA funding is slightly lower than opposition, but that may not matter much: In recent legislative battles over transit funding, upstate representatives have deferred to representatives from the NYC region.
The latest Q-poll, which surveyed registered voters statewide, asked New Yorkers if they thought “the state government should provide additional funds to the MTA or not.” Statewide, 44 percent said yes, while 48 percent said no. The splits cut along predictable ideological lines. Democrats strongly supported increasing transit funding, 59 to 34, while Republicans opposed it 29 to 63.
At this point, however, no one expects the state government to chip in new general fund dollars for downstate transit; it’s not on the table. Any new revenue would come from downstate residents, as with the payroll mobility tax or a hypothetical road pricing system. Upstaters wouldn’t be directly affected and their legislators would most likely defer to their colleagues from New York City and the suburbs, as they did in recent debates over the MTA’s finances.
If you remove upstaters from the poll numbers, increasing MTA funding has support from a solid 54 percent of voters, with 41 percent opposed. Slight suburban opposition is more than outweighed by the nearly two to one support for MTA funding in New York City.
It should be a no-brainer that most city residents favor more transit funding, but local press and politicians have used the MTA as a punching bag for so long now, it’s never a given that the people who use transit will support funding transit. The legislative wrangling over the MTA’s finances in 2009 certainly didn’t seem to help the agency’s image: A Quinnipiac poll taken at the time found that New Yorkers who think transit service had worsened blamed the MTA more than Albany, 59 percent to 19 percent.
Yesterday’s Q-poll also asked about the payroll tax specifically. Most people want to keep the payroll tax the same (though you have to wonder whether that’s just because they don’t know much about it). Even in the suburbs, where Republican politicians have made repealing the tax a top priority, only 51 percent of voters say they want it eliminated or reduced. The rest want to see it kept how it is or even increased.
When the Q-poll asked about a specific revenue stream in 2009, it found that 40 percent of New York City voters supported congestion pricing and 29 percent supported East River bridge tolls.
This isn’t slam dunk polling for transit funding, to be sure. The Senate Republicans in particular, very few of whom represent New York City, won’t see much reason in this poll to get behind a plan to fund transit. But having a majority of the affected voters behind transit funding is a good enough place to start a fight.