When the MTA announced yesterday the service upgrades to go along with the fare hike, I applauded the agency for its fiscal restraint. The upgrades, you see, are being delayed until June or later so that the MTA can make sure its tenuous finances are in order.
But today, news emerged that shed some light on these delays, and word is that Mayor Bloomberg’s support for the fare hike was contingent upon the MTA’s delaying these service upgrades. His motives however may not be 100 percent pure. Is he really that concerned with the MTA’s financial health or does he have ulterior motives?
Metro’s Patrick Arden has more:
While the debate over the MTA’s finances has focused on wringing money from Albany, this push-back came from City Hall, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to support the fare hike. In a statement, Bloomberg made clear he had asked “that next year’s service increase program will not be implemented until the first quarter’s tax and other revenues are reviewed.”
The mayor’s motivation may ultimately be political, as the MTA’s new $28 billion capital program gets submitted to the state Legislature just before it votes on congestion pricing. The mayor’s traffic fee would fund the MTA’s capital needs.
Now, I’m not quite sure where Arden is going with this line of thinking. On the one hand, it would behoove Bloomberg politically to support service upgrades. Every New York City politician supports more frequent subway service because, hey, that’s what voters like. And Bloomberg does seem genuinely concerned about the MTA’s finances.
But on the other hand — well, on the other hand, I’m drawing a blank. Arden notes that this could be a political gambit to pressure the state into approving the congestion pricing plan. But how? The congestion pricing money would go toward capital programs for the MTA and not the added train and bus service.
I could picture Bloomberg telling the legislature that, unless they approve more money for the MTA and the congestion pricing plan, the MTA will have to cut service and won’t be able to institute these service additions. Such an outcome would not endear state representatives to their constituents. But based upon the news reports about these service upgrades, it sounds like they aren’t related to the congestion pricing income as much as they are to the health of the MTA between now and May.
Bloomberg could be playing out a dangerous political gambit here, and I would hate to see these much-needed additions to subway service disappear if our mayor were to end up on the losing side of the gamble.