Q-Poll: NYC Residents Want More Funds For MTA By Nearly 2-1 Margin

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.

  • Josh

    Of course NYC residents want more state funds (e.g., our tax dollars, but also Buffalo tax dollars and Syracuse tax dollars) going to the MTA.  I want other people to pay my electric bill too.

  • IanM

    @6f7d005f0ac98fdba0813beee96c5fd2:disqus  – A lot more of NYC residents’ tax dollars go to support Buffalo’s and Syracuse’s roads than their tax dollars go to support the MTA. They’re all part of the state’s infrastructure, and we pool resources together to fund them – it’s a concept called a “public service”. For example, some of my taxes go to support medicaid. That’s ok, even though I’m not on medicaid, because the whole idea is that people on medicaid can’t pay for it themselves. That’s the idea of government services.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Actually, it is not upstate o r downstate voters who matter so much as their representatives.  And representatives in Plattsburgh, Hornell, Utica and Watertown probably realize that they have many manufacturers in their districts who depend substantially on vibrant MTA purchases to drive their local employers.  That is the constituency. 
    As with most polling, the actual formation of the questionnaire is critical to determining the range of the result.  Beyond that there is a historic and traditional division of transportation funding between downstate transit (MTA) and upstate roads and bridges that establishes a formula of political-economy.  The absence of any money at all for roads and bridges will be an important driver of budgeting.

  • Tsuyoshi

    New York City is the the most economically productive part of the state – and, in fact, the entire Western Hemisphere. The city itself should be able to contribute all the money necessary to fund transit in the city. I see no reason why we should need to go to Albany to fund our own transit system. Raising our own taxes to pay for better transit should be a no-brainer.

  • Plschwartzx

    Giving more money for NYC transit is somethng I support. Giving money to the MTA however is something I oppose. It is poorly managed and incapable of filling many of the needs of NYC riders. The State and City should re-evaluate the MTA to see if it is still needed. In fact the MTA, TBTA and PA are useless and costly relics.

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