Regular readers of this site have long cast a skeptical eye toward Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his distain for transit. His ideas — an AirTrain to LaGuardia via Willets Point — come out of nowhere and don’t align with transit needs or best practices. He’s thrown weight and tax dollars behind the stridently anti-transit QueensWay while ignoring the voices arguing for rail reactivation, and he’s done nothing to address the MTA’s $15.2 billion capital budget hole.
New York City, meanwhile, is sagging under the weight of record high subway riders. Yesterday, the MTA reported a total of 29 days in 2014 with over 6 million riders, and delays due to aging infrastructure — signal problems, rail conditions — seem rampant. That’s what the $15.2 billion is designed to address. While Cuomo is running away from, or at least ignoring, the problem, other groups such as the Move NY are thinking about the funding and traffic problems. It all might come to a head at some point.
My tiny corner of the Internet isn’t the only part taking note of the politicking though, and in yesterday’s Times, the paper’s editorial board called upon the Governor to, well, do something about it:
The state and city would seem obvious sources for much of this support. Mr. Cuomo, however, rejected the M.T.A. plan as “bloated” soon after it was submitted, even as some mass transit advocates regarded it as barely adequate. The governor’s latest budget gives the M.T.A. about $1.15 billion for these big projects over five years. Mayor Bill de Blasio has offered only $40 million a year as the city’s contribution, far lower than the usual $100 million.
These responses seem miserly when measured against the needs of a system that is already stuffed with passengers and expects at least one million more in the next 10 years. The requirements go beyond new cars; the M.T.A. proposes to replace more than 80 miles of track and a subway signaling system that is more than a half-century old and needs a $3 billion upgrade.
In the end, it is Mr. Cuomo who will have the most to say about whether this vital network thrives or deteriorates. He should help create a five-year capital plan that gives the M.T.A. some confidence about how to expand and maintain itself while he also finds the matching funds that upstate legislators will inevitably demand for bridges and roads in their constituencies. A short-term fix of a year or two is little more than a Band-Aid.
The Times highlights Move NY’s traffic pricing plan and a proposal by Richard Ravitch to raise the gas taxes. Either could address the funding gap, but so too, as the paper points out, would fare hikes, the last gasp for the MTA and a measure it can implement as it so chooses. As The Times notes, if the MTA is forced to “fall back on fare increases … those increases would have Mr. Cuomo’s name on them.” Best we not forget that.