Three days ago, the MTA dropped the news that a second fare hike may become a reality in 2009. Lost in the news on Friday were some alarming reports about the state of the MTA’s capital plan.
In discussing the financial state of the transportation authority, Mayor Bloomberg dropped a bit of a bombshell about the MTA’s construction plans. Pete Donohue repoted on Mayor Mike’s statement:
Mayor Bloomberg warned Friday that straphangers could face another fare hike next year – and said the city is broke and can’t help.
The mayor also said the MTA’s construction plan is in “shambles,” and he slammed state lawmakers for sinking his congestion pricing plan – which would have raised transit money.
“I think there is a very good likelihood that we are going to have to face the issue of a fare increase or something else,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. “The city doesn’t have any money to give. We are out of money.”
We know about the fare hike, but we hadn’t heard about the problems facing the MTA’s construction plans. For a while, rumors have swirled about the state of the progress on the MTA’s big-ticket items. Observers have noted a lack of above-ground work on the Second Ave. subway and the LIRR’s East Side Access project. Now, Bloomberg’s statement confirms our worst fears: The MTA could be facing a construction problem.
Across the city, the spiking cost of work is effective progress on buildings and development. Concrete costs are up; raw material prices have gone through the roof; and the MTA is not immune to these increases. A few weeks ago, the MTA noted that real estate revenues were down by nearly $81 million off of projected levels.
The MTA has long said that these problems won’t impact construction and expansion plans, but something has to give. Either we’re facing a fare hike or the MTA is facing a massive economic problem that could bring reduced service and a construction shut down. While these problems are not unique to New York, we can’t really afford to see the MTA fall into a recession reminiscent of the 1970s.
We’ll either see yet another fare hike or the government — the city, the state, the feds — will have to come through with the bucks. Either way, this tale is far from over.