The Times Fails to Comprehend the Nature of the MTA Funding Gap

kentucky_ohio
Kentucky and rural Ohio are not going to save the New York City transit system.

New York politicos couldn’t have asked for a better deflection of their own responsibility to keep our transit system running than this piece served up yesterday by Times opinion writer Eleanor Randolph:

New Yorkers struggle daily on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s subways, trains and buses. They now collect horror stories about long delays and missed engagements. The M.T.A., the nation’s largest transportation network, is also struggling, in the agency’s case with a five year capital plan that is more than $15 billion short. The state needs to contribute more. The city needs to contribute more. And both Mr. de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo need to come up with a better way to fund the system that serves the most populous 5,000 square mile area in the region.

Still, the big money will have to come from Congress.

Hear that, John Boehner? The New York City subways need you!

You can only reach the conclusion that an act of Congress will provide “the big money” to close the $15 billion shortfall in the MTA’s upcoming five-year capital program if you fundamentally fail to understand the nature of the problem.

The version of the MTA capital budget with $32 billion in spending and a $15 billion hole already assumes that the feds will contribute $6 billion in grants and loans. Merely holding on to that $6 billion is a shaky proposition right now.

For transit systems in cities like New York, the scope of the fight in the GOP-controlled Congress is not over securing more funds — it’s to preserve the funds that transit already receives. That’s the best realistic outcome of yesterday’s “stand up for transportation” rallies.

The John Boehner/Mitch McConnell Congress is not going to swoop in and save the New York City transit system. Raising revenue and controlling costs really just come down to the people who actually run the MTA: Governor Cuomo and the state legislature.

Cuomo is the one person who can make the Move New York toll reform plan politically viable and the one politician who can take meaningful action to root out construction waste like this. Asking Congress to do it instead won’t get New York anywhere.

Cuomo at a subway photo-op with MTA Chair Tom Prendergast. Photo: Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit via Flickr CC license 2.0

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Transit Oriented Development in the New York Metropolitan Region

|
Forum panelists will discuss Transit Oriented Development (TOD) – what it is, specific initiatives in progress or completed, and the benefits and obstacles to its implementation. Featuring Panelists: Eric Alexander, Vision Long IslandVivian Baker, NJ TransitJoseph Chan, MTARandall Fleischer, MTA Metro-North RailroadLarry Gould, MTA NYC TransitRobert Lane, Regional Plan AssociationElisa Picca, MTA Long Island Rail […]

Caption Contest: Re-name This Foursome

|
Hat tip to Liz Benjamin at the Daily Politics for this snapshot of four state senators who’ve helped concoct a stopgap, toll-less MTA funding plan that does nothing to address the imminent decline of New York’s transit system. Lest they be accused of completely shortchanging the future, they say maintenance and expansion can be taken […]

This Week: MTA Transit and Toll Hike Hearings

|
With the transit disruptions wrought by Sandy fresh on the minds of New Yorkers, this week’s calendar is full of hearings on proposed MTA transit and toll hikes. Also: TA recruits for community boards, and work continues in Brooklyn for a safer Fourth Avenue. Tuesday: Ahead of an MTA transit and toll hike hearing at the […]

Who Will Be the Next MTA Chief?

|
Who’s up for the challenge of managing the nation’s biggest transit system at a time when state government has left it with a pile of debt and two already-scheduled fare hikes? The person who takes over the MTA from Jay Walder after his resignation takes effect October 21 will have the marquee transit job in […]