Report: Next Governor Must Reinvest In MTA

Regular readers of transit news sources like this already know the obvious, the MTA needs to be fixed & the biggest way to do that is by properly reinvesting in the MTA. This topic has taken center stage even more so recently due to politics dominating the local news cycle.

On the heels of the recent Governor’s debate where bashing the MTA with useless dribble was the evening’s dinner special, the Drum Major Institute has issued a report warning that riders can expect more fare hikes & service cuts if the next New York State Governor does not reinvest in the MTA. Before taking a peak at the report, here is a brief news snippet courtesy of Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News:

Millions of transit riders face even bigger fare hikes and additional service cuts if the next governor doesn’t increase funding, a report coming out Thursday warns.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority debt payments are soaring and Albany lawmakers are poaching transit funds, the report from the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy and Transportation Alternatives says.

“While MTA executives can cut costs at the margins, only a concerted plan by the next governor can redirect investment to the state’s mass transit systems and avert a fiscal disaster,” the report says. “Without new sources of revenue, riders will be faced with even more severe service cuts and fare hikes.”

The report urges the gubernatorial candidates to adopt a platform that includes returning $160 million of MTA-dedicated funds that Gov. Paterson and the state Legislature took to balance the state’s budget last year.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Click here for the complete report.

Now here is a sample of their report:

Introduction and Overview: The Problem and Five Steps for Reform

The governor and state legislature are directly responsible for the MTA’s finances: they decide how much revenue flows to the authority, and only they have the power to put the MTA on sound financial footing. While MTA executives can continue to cut costs at the margins, only a concerted plan led by the next governor can redirect investment to the state’s mass transit system and avert a fiscal disaster.

A true Albany reformer willing to make tough choices would move the MTA away from costly borrowing and make smart investments that will drive renewed economic growth, boost the state’s economic competitiveness, and save taxpayers money in the long-term.

Made in Albany: The MTA Fiscal Crisis

· The MTA faces a $900 million gap in its operating budget in 2011 and a $2.1 billion deficit by 2014.

· The MTA holds a total of $31 billion in debt, which is more than twice the MTA’s annual budget.

· Debt payments cost the MTA $1.8 billion last year and are set to increase to $2.1 billion next year and $2.6 billion by 2014.

· State lawmakers will force the MTA to borrow an additional $9 billion for basic upkeep and repairs of the transit system over the next five years. This could drive up debt payments to $3.5 billion a year by 2020.

This transit platform proposes five steps the gubernatorial candidates should take if they are serious about reform in Albany and improving conditions for millions of daily commuters throughout the state. Each step listed below is backed by evidence and data showing why they are necessary.

1. Return the $160 million taken from the MTA over the last year by the state legislature and prevent state lawmakers from using dedicated transit funds for other purposes.

2. End the fiscally irresponsible reliance on debt by restoring the state’s contribution to the MTA capital program to 20 percent of the program’s cost.

3. Protect millions of straphangers from threats to repeal the mobility tax which, if repealed, would result in yearly MTA budget deficits of over one billion dollars.

4. Create sustainable sources of transit revenue, funded by everyone who benefits from transit, including riders, drivers and businesses.

5. Lead New York’s congressional delegation to secure higher levels of federal funding that would help expand public transit service access to underserved areas.

Click here to view the complete .pdf report.

I took the time to read the report & urge others to do so as well. While it contains no information that those of us who follow the MTA did not know, it makes a number of common sense points that need to be enacted. They are 100% correct in how whomever our next Governor is, they need to make sure the state reinvests in the MTA which includes a complete stop to the pilfering of funds dedicated to them.

While DMI supports congestion pricing which I do not, I do agree with their points of dedicated revenue being needed. My big concern with plans such as congestion pricing is that while supporters echo the need to lessen the burden on transit riders, where is the guarantee that an epic shift does not occur to drivers? This mindset that drivers have much more disposable income is ludicrous. Shifting the burden from one side to the other is not the way to go about things.

Will our next Governor stand up to Albany & reinvest in the much maligned transit agency? Unfortunately my gut tells me they won’t & that feeling increased after the recent debate where bashing the MTA was the hip thing to do. Was it more baseless bashing to appeal to voters or was it their real sentiment shining through?

In the end, we as voters need to kick out all officials who are not willing to reinvest in the MTA. There has to be an end to the game of pouching money from the MTA & turning right around to complain about their money management & how they are unfair to constituents by cutting service & raising fares. The wool has been pulled over the eyes of too many & it is time for everyone to wake up. If the voters don’t, they will continue to pay more for less.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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