As Albany bickered over an MTA funding plan, the agency yesterday announce a $621-million increase in its deficit for 2009 and a $1 billion increase for 2010. Based on the response out of Albany, you’d never know how bad that news really is.
In a nutshell, the story is simple. Because ridership and tax revenues are both lower than projected, the MTA’s substantial budge deficit will grow by nearly 50 percent this year. While neither Malcolm Smith nor Sheldon Silver has realized it, this increase basically negates any Albany-produced funding package. Even if the State Senate and Assembly can come to terms — even if they pass something that brings some money into the MTA’s coffers — it will be enough to cover a $1.2 billion gap and not a $1.8 billion gap.
So then, what does this mean for New Yorkers reliant on transit? Well, at this point, the MTA will have little choice but to start cutting service. The cutbacks may not be as drastic as once feared, but a $600 million gap is pretty substantial itself.
The worse news though comes in the fare box department. Since the MTA is so reliant right now on fare box revenue, the agency said on Monday that it may have to raise fares twice in 2009. With no Senate action, the fares will go up by nearly 25 percent at the end of May, and for the first time in MTA history, the fares could go up a second time this calendar year and a third time in 2010.
Pete Donohue reports a potential eight percent increase on tap as the second fare hike of the year. I would expect that to arrive by October or November when the MTA has a clearer picture of how much money it needs to balance its books before the end of the year. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the eventual second fare hike ended up at over eight percent.
Times are bleak indeed for transit in New York.