Fare increases for NYC transit bus, the subway and Staten Island Railway along with the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Rail Road were already assumed in 2019 as part of the approval process for the MTA’s $51 billion 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Plan. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and members of the New York State Legislature and New York City Council were all in on this financial arrangement before signing on board. This included a 4 percent increase in 2021 and 2023.
Receipt of a second $4 billion CARE Covid-19 bailout from Washington under a future Federal Transit Administration grant will not result in cancellation of these fare increases. It should assist them in holding the line at no greater than 4 percent. This would eliminate the previously threatened fare increase in 2021 that would have been far greater than 4 percent.
Within the 1953 master agreement between NYC and NYC Transit are escape clauses. New York City has the legal right to take back control of its assets at any time. This includes the subway and bus system. In 1953, the old NYC Board of Transportation passed on control of the municipal subway system, including all its assets, under a master lease and operating agreement to the newly created NYC Transit Authority. New York City owns the NYC Transit subway and bus system. MTA is the management company hired to run it.
Why has the MTA not asked City Hall, their boss along with Washington, for additional funding to avoid a 40 percent threatened reduction to bus and subway service? Ditto for Albany to avoid the previously threatened 50 percent cut to Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Rail Road service?
Albany provides the MTA with significant annual funding under the Statewide Transportation Operating Assistance program. Why hasn’t the MTA asked Gov. Cuomo, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Steward Cousins, state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to increase their contribution? Washington via Federal Transit Administration grants, riders via farebox and motorists via tolls continue to pay their fair share. Uncle Sam did even more by providing $3.9 billion under the first CARE COVID-19 aid package and a second $4 billion relief bill. In 2020, the Federal Transit Administration provided the MTA with annual $1.4 billion in formula funding under various grant programs. In 2021, this should increase to $1.5 billion..
It is time for Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo to pay their respective fair shares as well.
Larry Penner — transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.