Much of the New York metropolitan region's $1.5 trillion economy is driven by our transportation system. It moves people and goods throughout 12 counties 24 hours a day. But it takes a lot of money to maintain, modernize, and expand a system built over one hundred years ago.
In September, the MTA released its proposed Five-Year Capital Program budget of $32 billion. The agency charged with operating, maintaining, and improving our transportation network and infrastructure identified a $15 billion gap in funding. In the past, the MTA has taken on heavy debt to meet the budget. This means higher tolls and fares on existing drivers and riders. And for every dollar we spend, 20 cents goes to finance debt (i.e., to the banks) rather than to reinvest in the transportation system you're supposed to be paying for.
According to a recent report, if the MTA were to take on an additional $15 billion in fare and toll-backed debt to fill the budget gap, there would be a 15% increase in existing tolls and fares, on top of the twin 4% increases already scheduled for the next two years. Compounded, that's a nearly 25% increase in tolls and fares over the next five years! The current $2.50 subway and bus fare? That would leap to $3.13! The $7.50 cash toll to over $9.38, and E-ZPass would jump from $5.33 to $6.66!
It's time to fill the MTA's funding gap. But not with more debt backed by higher tolls and fares! The State legislature recognized the importance of funding our transportation system nearly four decades ago by establishing the MTA Five-Year Capital Program. In the past, this critical funding has been used for modest expansion and modernization of our transit network. Most recently, funding has gone to constructing the Fulton Transit Center, the Second Avenue Subway, and the new 7 line extension in Hell's Kitchen, as well as 21st century technologies like countdown clocks, real-time information kiosks, and upgraded signaling systems that have greatly improved the subway and bus riding experience for everyone.
Filling the gap, with new revenue, would expand these technologies to more subway lines, improve our crumbling roads and bridges, and increase service to our City's most transit-starved communities. We need New York's lawmakers to identify new funding mechanisms that sustain and modernize the system without unduly and disproportionately burdening those drivers and riders who are already paying their fair share.
New York is the Empire State. Don't we deserve a transportation system that befits the title?
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