Getting worse before it gets better

By · Published in 2009

One the major causes of the MTA’s current fiscal short fall is a $143 million reduction in previously-approved state appropriations. Now, the state’s fiscal picture is growing darker by the day, and as the MTA prepares to close a budget gap of nearly $400 million, recent developments are leaving me wondering if they should look for even more ways to save.

In a rather gloomy story over the weekend, the Daily News reported that things will very likely get worse before they get any better. Wrote Kate Lucadamo and Pete Donohue:

The MTA’s budget crisis could worsen, a financial rating company said Friday – just days after the authority announced plans to slash services and charge students to ride buses and subways. A Moody’s Investment Services report raises concerns that the state again will cut funding to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A deepening or longer recession also could drive down ridership and revenues from taxes that are supposed to help pay for the subway, bus and commuter train system, according to the report…Gov. Paterson and the state Legislature cut nearly $3 billion in state spending early this month, including money for student MetroCards. Mayor Bloomberg warned yesterday things will get worse.

“People are screaming about what they do now; wait until they see what happens in March,” Bloomberg told WOR’s John Gambling during his weekly radio show.

In March, the state may very well be faced with a budget gap of $9 billion. That could spell the end of any major state subsidies for the MTA.

Of course, cutting off the MTA is a major mistake. Whether or not Albany realizes it, New York City’s mass transit system drives the state’s entire economy. Our politicians though are far more willing to play with fire than they should be. If we’ve learned one thing over the last year, it is exactly that.

In the end, the MTA should begin to evaluate its options now. It can cut services only so much before the fares have to start inching up. As I’ve said in the past, I’d rather see service levels remain as they are now with fares going up. It’s more important to have adequate service and slightly higher fares than it is to have sub-par service and fares artificially deflated. Still, congestion pricing and East River Bridge tolls are going to have to be considered as solutions, and as the economy stumbles in New York state, we can only hope the MTA can survive relatively intact

Categories : MTA Economics

10 Responses to “Getting worse before it gets better”

  1. Abba says:

    Why dosent Mayor bloomberg say”I’ll do something about it”. Instead of”things will get worse”.

    • E. Aron says:

      By do something you probably mean have the city provide more money for the MTA. From where do you propose the city finds that money? Or is this another case of blame the figurehead who’s easy to blame.

      • Scott E says:

        The problem seems to me that the city and state continue to take the stance that they must financially sustain themselves before they can think about supporting someone else. Unfortunately, the “someone else” is the MTA. Neither government (city, state) embraces this agency as their own, nor do they recognize how vitally important it is to their own well-being.

        • Aaron says:

          Part of the reason we need home rule, particularly for transit within the City’s borders. MNRR and LIRR being a more complicated problem, but for subways and the City bus lines, the City ought to have both authority and control.

    • vancortlandt says:

      “Why dosent Mayor bloomberg say”I’ll do something about it”. Instead of”things will get worse”.”

      Because he is not running for another term, so he can finally stop lying.

  2. Boris says:

    It’s a game of who blinks first between the city and the state. At this point, a larger city contribution simply means that the state cuts aid by that much more. Any congestion pricing income would probably equal to the additional state cut as well. With a state legislature dead set against public transit, it makes no sense for Bloomberg to increase MTA funding, whatever he really thinks should be done.

    • A-W says:

      You’ve got it right on the head here. If Bloomberg moves, he gets attacked for worsening the deficit and not “giving enough” to the MTA. The other side (the state) might even get extra points out of this which would be especially outrageous in this context.

      In the meantime, we all lose as members of the state and city political establishments point fingers and do nothing.

  3. Aaron says:

    If the state axes the subsidy entirely, can we get home rule back? ;p

  4. Mike Nitabach says:

    Anybody know what entity has the legal right to charge tolls on the East River/Harlem River bridges? And is there anything to stop that entity from saying, “Hey! Great idea to charge tolls on the East River! Oh, we should give the revenue to the MTA? I don’t think so.”

    • Nathanael says:

      Bridges are owned by a bunch of different organizations. Some by the City, some by the MTA, some by the State I think. Also whether they can be tolled depends partly on whose *roads* cross them — if state roads cross them you need state permission (no Federal roads cross them).

      The Brooklyn Bridge is 100% city and could be tolled by the city tomorrow, IIRC.

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