When the MTA institutes its sweeping package of service cuts this summer, the agency will do so in an attempt to save nearly $400 million. It’s now going to have to find double those savings to stave off economic disaster. According to the latest budget totals from New York State, the estimate revenue generated by the payroll mobility tax will now be $700 million less than expected from 2009-2011. With this news, the MTA faces even more economic uncertainty and a 2010 budget gap that will grow to at least $400 million after the cuts are instituted. At this point, fare hikes for 2011 are shaping up to be quite substantial.
Meanwhile, the ideological divide between those who want the MTA to receive proper funding is growing. In response to this news — a development that highlights the need for a long-term fix — Gene Russianoff sent out a statement again supporting a short-term stimulus fix that won’t even close this new estimated gap. “The MTA’s widening deficit makes it more important than ever for the cash-starved agency to use currently available federal stimulus money to keep running as much transit service as possible,” he said, when in fact this widening deficit makes it more important to find a stable source of year-to-year revenue and not a funding source that will dry up after it’s tapped.
On the other side of the debate is John Petro of the Drum Major Institute. In a Huffington Post piece, Petro explains why bridge tolls and congestion pricing schemes are both inevitable and beneficial for the MTA and New York. With wider gaps projected for this year and next, Petro’s is the kind of proposal transit advocates need to be supporting right now. A stimulus fix, estimated to provide under $200 million in funding, just won’t cut it right now.