Monday, March 16, 2009

The problem with the MTA

If you have not noticed yet, NY State is trying to close a $1.2 billion budget gap for the MTA (the regional transit authority). Even though they have said they need to cut bus and subway service and lines, they plan to move forward on major capital projects. Are you as confused as I am?

We know a lot of the federal stimulus dollars are going to road projects, why would an agency move forward on large projects when they can't even balance their budget and continue the same level of service (which is still far from a "state of good repair"). Here is an excerpt from a USA Today article talking about all the planned projects for the region:

Work is set to begin this spring on a $9 billion train tunnel under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan, the first new link between the two in more than a half-century. The nearly 3.5-mile tunnel will more than double the number of commuter trains that can cross into New York City. Trains now use a 100-year-old two-track tunnel that is at capacity, meaning that trains sometimes must wait their turn to cross into the city.

According to the article these other projects will cost the following: $16 billion for the 2nd Avenue subway, $2.1 billion for extension of the 7 line (one stop), and $7.2 billion for East side access (yes, so LIRR passengers can get off at Grand Central).

I was never great at math but that adds up to $34.3 billion. Call my analysis simplistic, because it is, but no one really can't find $1.2 billion out of all these projects to keep the current system running? What good is the stimulus if our current transit systems fail us?


Anonymous said...

The MTA has nothing to do with the new Trans-Hudson tubes; thats New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority, and its urgently needed.

The Second Ave. Subway is urgently needed, but isn't anywhere near funded. My grandmother was born and died in the period it took from planning (1929) to serious construction prep (2007). The crowding on the at capacity Lexington Ave Line is so bad that people can wait half an hour for a train with enough room at rush hour. Still, it's entire length is not yet budgeted; only a current extention of the Q line up to 92nd is going to be built. The 7 extention is garbage and probably should have been light rail, but does hold a future second station and hopefully future development at the Hudson Yards terminus of the line.

Penn Station is at capacity but LIRR needs more, hence the LIRR to Grand Central tunnel that will actually improve commutation for millions out on Long Island.

Remember that 1.2 billion is this year's deficit. The MTA currently gets funding from fares, real estate sales and taxes, and bridge tolls, all of which go down in a bad economy. All these project were budgeted before this year and before the deficit was truly known. The MTA isn't really the problem here, it's the current funding mechanism. A dedicated mass transit tax taken from the city and suburbs, along with something like East River bridge tolls or congestion pricing in Manhattan is needed to fund the regionwide (i.e. City, Westchester, Long Island, Fairfield County, Northern New Jersey) transportation network.

Anonymous said...

Inspect away Congestion! The city should toughen inspections for medical, psychiatric and vehicle reasons to cut down the number of congestion. This way, we will also get the voters against congestion pricing, who live in Bayside and Staten Island, to move away. Free health care means psychiatric care for all those angry talk radio white males!