Cuomo MIA on MTA Funding as Straphangers Brace for Another Fare Hike

Andrew Cuomo on opening day of the Second Avenue Subway. Where will he be on fare hike day? Photo: Governor's office/Flickr
Andrew Cuomo on opening day of the Second Avenue Subway. Where will he be on fare hike day? Photo: Governor's office/Flickr

The MTA board raised transit fares again today. Thanks to Andrew Cuomo’s funding bait-and-switch, straphangers can expect the hikes to keep coming.

In 2015, Cuomo pledged $8.3 billion in state funds for the MTA five-year capital program. But Cuomo delayed $7.3 billion of that contribution indefinitely, saying the state would come through after MTA resources were “exhausted.”

Months later, Cuomo and state legislators raised the MTA debt ceiling, to allow for $14 billion in additional borrowing. So the MTA can go deeper into debt while Cuomo puts off the contribution he promised.

MTA debt has grown substantially during Cuomo’s time in office, putting pressure on the agency’s budget that pushes fares ever upward.

Under the plan approved today, the $2.75 base fare will remain the same, but on March 19 the cost of 7- and 30-day MetroCards will go up, and multi-ride bonuses will drop. It will be the sixth fare hike since 2008, according to NY1.

On fare hike day, straphangers should remember that Cuomo broke a promise that would have helped keep money in their pockets.

  • Urbanely

    It’s time to protest this nonsense with the MTA. The reason they continue with fare hikes and ever decreasing service is because they can. Cuomo has no idea what is important to actual riders, and therefore we get “amenities” like wifi on trains instead of actual, timely trains. We get useless methods of measuring delays instead of actual, timely service. Remember when the MTA workers went on strike and we all sucked it up and found alternate methods of getting around for a few days? Let’s do that again. Show the MTA that we will not be held captive!

  • anon

    Cuomo is doing this because he despises DiBlasio. (And who can blame him — DiBlasio is an even worse phony than Cuomo) If DiBlasio would do something positive for the majority of people who live and work in the City, then things might get better. But he can’t see past his own self interest. If he took a subway ride and saw all the mentally ill homeless on the trains day and night and experienced the crowding, delays and poor service for himself, he might realize that we’re all paying the price for his selfishness. I’m a life long democrat, etc but I am looking forward to voting for anyone but DiBlasio — doesn’t matter who, they cannot be worse.

  • HamTech87

    I’m no fan of either, but Cuomo’s hypocrisy and childishness is a lot worse. It has been State funding cuts that has help turbocharge this rise in homelessness. And as the Coalition for the Homeless says, the State and City need to work together. And the State needs to return funding to pre-Cuomo levels.
    http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/a-state-blueprint-for-ending-homelessness-what-governor-cuomo-must-do-to-help-end-new-yorks-homelessness-crisis/

  • The reason the MTA continues with fare hikes is that the people of New York State (just like most other Americans) are unwilling to pay enough in taxes to fund essential infrastructure. So there is no choice but to raise the fare.

    The suggestion about “alternate methods of getting around” is absurd. Even as a bicyclist who doesn’t take the subway much anymore, I still use it on rainy or snowy days, and I rely on taking my bike on the train in emergencies when a sudden rain prevents me from riding, or when I get a flat (such as yesterday). Also, for most people, the “alternative method” is going to be private cars. Do that, and New York ceases to be New York.

    Our subway system is a marvel. And it’s a marvel that costs money to operate. It requires extensive maintenence; and its workers deserve to make a handsome living in return for the level of civilisation that their work allows all New Yorkers to enjoy. As long as Americans cling to the infantile aversion to taxes, we’re going to have an ever-increasing fare for the subways and buses.

    And even that fare is pretty cheap when looked at objectively. Something is expensive or inexpensive only in relation to other things. So it’s worth noting that a ride on the subway costs much less than a Big Mac or a deli sandwich.

  • “but I am looking forward to voting for anyone but DiBlasio — doesn’t matter who, they cannot be worse.”

    I don’t disagree with you about BDB’s effectiveness, and I’m not keen to vote for him again, but I have no faith that anyone else can’t be worse. Both Erik Ulrich and Tony Avella would be much worse.

  • B. Barker

    The MTA is
    one of those intuitions that obscure; debt, operating costs, public subsidies,
    etc…. Things will never change until the people hold the governor responsible
    for all aspects of the MTA. Figure how
    to hold one politician responsible the operation and budget for this huge
    organization and you may get a chance at reform.

  • dporpentine

    I think your “much worse” deserves a few more “much[comma]”s after it.

    De Blasio has his problems–Vision Zero as 90% slogan, 10% policy not least among them–but he’s actually done a lot. The problem is the incoherence to his work, not the ideology that gives rise to it or even its implementation. (Again: Vision Zero is a big exception here.)

  • urbanely

    I support tax increases that result in better services, and yes, the MTA could benefit from more funding via taxes. However, they’ve also shown a willingness to mismanage at least some of the funds that hey get, and that needs to stop.

    Workers need to be paid appropriately, but the union rules that lead to waste and abuse also need to be curtailed. As a former government union worker, I can tell you that there are definitely wasteful union policies that raise costs for the public for no real reason other than union power. The offices of government need to work together to improve conditions for the workers instead of just throwing money at the problems.

    Lastly, I’m not advocating a prolonged abandonment of the MTA, but some sort of demonstration that would indicate to the MTA that yes, there are people riding these trains and we need better service and more sensible policies coming from the MTA. So far, we the people have been a captive audience who just complains through service cuts and daily transit woes. Isn’t there any alternative?

  • urbanely

    I agree re: not de Blasio, but would also add that on this issue, Cuomo is holding the purse strings for the MTA, so he would also benefit from riding the buses and subways.

  • simon

    I 100% agree with you. London has relatively higher fees per trip. The reach of our system is almost unprecedented. At $3.50 a trip our system is a bargain. But service better get a lot better before we get there. Improve the overcrowded lines in a blitz. Clean up some of the most used stations. They I will pay $3.50.

  • Joe R.

    I’m going to call BS on this. NYC/NYS is the among the highest taxed places on the planet. We pay more than enough taxes to fully fund a world-class subway system. The problem is how that money is spent. We waste a ton of money on our schools and yet still fail to properly educate students. And then we’re told by the teacher’s union the problem is we need still more money. Same thing with the police. Same thing with the transit workers. Like you, I’m all for people earning a good living performing essential functions BUT I fully expect them to be as productive as humanly possible in return for that salary. No reason we can’t go to one person train operation. No reason we can’t reform wasteful work rules which limit the functions workers can do. The hard fact is NYC isn’t a jobs mill, nor should it be treated as such. Labor is an incidental requirement for the functions NYC performs, but it’s incumbent upon our government to reduce the costs of labor to the bone. This doesn’t always mean cutting salaries. It could mean increasing productivity so the same job gets done with fewer workers. It definitely means increasing worker accountability so people can get fired if they don’t perform regardless of how long they’ve been on the job.

    The answer isn’t to increase fares or to increase taxes. Rather, it’s to manage the funds which come in more wisely. Let’s look at the costs in other first world countries for delivering education, police, transit. Once that’s done, we cut the budgets accordingly. Just at first glance, we can probably cut the budgets for the DOE and NYPD in half. When they complain, remind them that other countries manage to deliver world class education or policing for the amount of money they’re now being given. Let them figure out how. Tear up all the old contracts, give them total freedom to manage their workforces.

    Do the same with big infrastructure projects. Put bidding for these on the world stage. Again, costs are very high because current rules effectively grant a few companies a virtual monopoly. If some Chinese company can build the next phase of the SAS for $1.5 billion instead of $6 billion they get the contract. Maybe even do the same with operating the system. Put bids out on the world stage.

    And even that fare is pretty cheap when looked at objectively.

    Look at the $2.75 fare from the perspective of someone making minimum wage. If you do that, the weekly tab just for getting to work comes to around 10% of their take-home pay. Or better yet, put yourself in the shoes of some of the off-the-books workers making as little as $2 an hour. Still think it’s pretty cheap? When I first started working, paying the fare was a major hardship, so much so I regularly walked 3 miles to/from the subway instead of paying an extra fare for the bus. Thankfully we’ve eliminated two-fare zones so others aren’t put in that position but the fact remains that our fare isn’t cheap for a good segment of the workforce.

    Like I said, the answer isn’t to increase fares or taxes. Guess who will get hit when that happens? Hint—it’ll be the people least able to pay. Fare increases are regressive tax increase. So are most income tax increases given that they tend to take the form of uniform percentage jumps in tax brackets. The lowest tax bracket might jump from 10% to 12% while the highest one goes from 35% to 37%. End result is the poor who can’t even afford the taxes they’re paying end up paying 20% more taxes while the very wealthy face a tax increase of a few percent at best.

  • Joe R.

    A fiscally conservative but socially liberal Republican might be exactly what this city needs if we can find such a person to run for Mayor. The labor unions all need a good kick in the behind. Same thing with the big consultants who ride the gravy train on major infrastructure projects. Management at the MTA, DOE, and NYPD also could use a major shake up. Doubtless there are lots of patronage positions there awarded to families and friends of major campaign donors. We need someone to stand up to the arrogant, entrenched interests here and tell them it all ends today.

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