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Brodsky promises funding for student fares

by Benjamin Kabak

The politicking surrounding the threatened cuts to the MTA’s student MetroCard program were in full swing yesterday as MTA CEO and Chairman Jay Walder made an appearance before Richard Brodsky’s Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. While Walder spoke about his aversion toward using stimulus funds to cover the MTA’s operating gap, Brodsky reassured the MTA head that he and the Assembly would work hard to find money for student rides.

“There is no reason in God’s Earth to make young kids pay the price of the MTA’s fiscal crisis,” Brodsky said. “I think parents should be hopeful if not confident that we’re going to solve this before next September.”

Of course, promises from Brodsky may not be enough. The MTA is threatening to end the student MetroCard program not because of the recent reduction in state subsidies from $45 million annually to just $6 million but because neither the state or city have upped their contributions to the program. At one point, as I’ve explained in the past, the city, state and MTA split the funding for student rides evenly with each body covering approximately a third of the costs. As school enrollment levels and the cost of free rides have increased, the state and city have never upped their contributions, and the MTA has been saddled with covering nearly $170 million of student rides per year.

“We’re going to deal with that in a timely way,” Brodsky said of the MTA’s threats to end free rides for the city’s students, “and we’re very confident there’s going to be a good outcome.” Brodsky, reports amNew York, said that he will be “pushing” to restore the state’s contributions to the student program.

Brodsky’s words, if we parse them, seem to indicate that, on the one hand, he will find a way to fund student travel but, on the other, he will “push” simply to restore the state’s $45 million grant, but the MTA needs more. The authority needs both New York City — as Christine Quinn noted earlier this week — and New York State to up its student subsidies significantly in order to safe the program.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in the business of running a transit system. It isn’t in the business of providing free transportation for students because the city and state are too broke to do so and found a good scapegoat/transit out in the MTA’s largess. As Walder goes to Albany to lobby for money, he should make this reality quite clear to those who are listening.

Meanwhile, Brodsky noted that the state would not provide another funding plan — or in his words, a bailout — for the MTA. Every agency, he said, has to make “painful” cuts as funding is tight. Left unsaid is the quick fix for the city and the MTA. East River Bridge Tolls would solve many of the MTA’s current fiscal woes and would simply be good for New York City. Walder won’t lobby for those because to do so now would be political folly, but free bridges remain a reminder to the way state and city representatives view the MTA and our subways as second-rate transportation options when they are truly the economic drivers of the region.

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16 comments

Scott E January 8, 2010 - 8:12 am

In general, across the United States, I thought only the school districts paid for student transportation, yet we’ve pointed fingers at both the city and state during this current situation. Is NYC (or New York, as a whole) unique in having the state contribute to student transportation as well?

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AK January 8, 2010 - 9:47 am

The State of New York, from a fiscal perspective, does more for local school budgets than more other states (especially after the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity Suit–see: http://www.villagevoice.com/20.....it-failed/). Your question, though, makes me wonder if the cost of transporting an NYC child to school is > the average cost of transporting a suburban child to school. My guess is yes (and thus, it would be reasonable for teh State to pitch in), but I would have to do some digging to find out for certain.

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Julia January 8, 2010 - 1:24 pm

In New York, districts pay their entire transportation cost upfront but get a percentage of that cost back as school aid the following year. (The funding split varies by district.) So New York State doesn’t directly pay for transportation, either.

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Rhywun January 8, 2010 - 9:27 pm

In NYS, the school district IS the city government for all cities over 125,000 population (i.e. NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers). All others are entities that raise their own taxes and I presume the transportation is funded out of that.

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J. Mork January 8, 2010 - 9:58 am

I don’t see the part where he promised anything. He says he’ll work on it and that he’s “confident” and that parents should be “hopeful if not confident” that it will get worked out. I don’t think it’s fair to call that a promise (and I am no fan of Brodsky).

(BTW, I think it will get worked out, and that the MTA has shrewdly chosen the right thing to announce possible cuts on, knowing that funding will most likely be found — as for the other service cuts, we shall see.)

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Working Class January 8, 2010 - 10:26 am

Am I the only one that thinks that the MTA shouldn’t have to pay anything towards students rides? It’s not there responsibility it’s the cities.

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Scott E January 8, 2010 - 11:09 am

Working Class – no, you’re not the only one. Everyone at the MTA, and it appears everyone at Second Ave. Sagas, agrees with you on this matter.

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Rhywun January 8, 2010 - 9:30 pm

Especially since NYC is one of only 2 cities in the state that levy a local income tax–and a rather high one at that (something like 7%).

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AK January 8, 2010 - 10:45 pm

3%

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/ht.....come.shtml

But, yes, I’m with you Working Class!

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Rhywun January 9, 2010 - 12:22 pm

Right. I was thinking of NYS.

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With good reason, Sander shoots down stimulus spending on deficit :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog January 8, 2010 - 12:05 pm

[…] « Brodsky promises funding for student fares Jan […]

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Building 11 January 9, 2010 - 10:21 am

Would Brodsky (or any other elected official, for that matter) have gone this far if the MTA hadn’t eliminated the student passes? Would they have cared?

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Alon Levy January 10, 2010 - 7:40 am

Maybe Brodsky should reconsider congestion pricing. Granted, it’s deeply unfair to his high-income district, but you do what you have to do.

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Andrew January 11, 2010 - 10:30 pm

Deeply unfair? How is it unfair at all?

When it comes to transportation policy in the U.S., especially in the New York City area, the status quo is deeply unfair. Congestion pricing might not be perfect, but even the worst congestion pricing plan would be a vast improvement.

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Alon Levy January 12, 2010 - 2:45 am

I’m mocking Brodsky – I don’t think there’s anything unfair about CP. I believe his district is the highest-income in the state, but he still called CP unfair.

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Andrew January 12, 2010 - 9:59 pm

My mistake – I didn’t detect the sarcasm.

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