It's been about a month since subway fares jumped 4% to $2.75, and yesterday the MTA threw up its hands even further in despair, admitting that unless Albany comes around to addressing the MTA's $14 billion funding gap, fares might be raised another 15%, which would add up to a stomach-lurching $3.17 per ride.
With the fate of the Second Avenue line an open question, and Mayor de Blasio daydreaming about a brand new subway line along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, as New York's population spikes and subway cars burst at the seams, the MTA board is facing a harsh reality: it needs billions just to keep up with basic maintenance.
MTA Finance Committee Chair Andrew Saul admitted yesterday, "The thing that concerns me the most is the state of good repair. Forgetting about new capital projects, we need to keep the system up to date, and keep it running well and maintained properly, and to me that's the real concern here."
Floating the possibility of another fare hike yesterday, MTA CFO Bob Foran said, "If we do not receive adequate funding to carry us through the next two years, we don't have sufficient funds to keep the program going." And, "At that point the board [might need] to turn to self-help." Self-help? Like daily affirmations and a juice cleanse? No, by "self-help" the MTA really means "you-help." According to Foran, there's a real possibility of "an incremental 15% increase in fares and tolls." He did not speculate as to when such an increase would be instated.
The committee also discussed the possibility of large-scale cuts to construction jobs on the MTA's capital projects.
While Foran expressed some hope that Albany might come around in the next two months, board member Jeffrey Kay was extremely pessimistic. "We've got a freight train coming at us," he said, launching into a prediction of pure misery:
"This is a real problem, and it's not just going to impact the MTA. It's going to impact the riders, it's going to impact the workforce, it's going to impact the construction unions, and it's going to impact jobs. Every person that we have to bring into the city every day is going to be impacted by this! I'm getting a little anxious now. I should calm down. But this is a real serious issue, and I don't know what we can do in order to tell our partners that this is real."
Board member Allen Cappelli added, "We knew this day would come, and it's here."
The Board also discussed the Move NY plan, which could chip away at the MTA's debt by instating tolls on bridges over the East River, as well as traffic crossing over 60th Street. Mayor de Blasio does not appear to be taking the toll proposal seriously, and the plan is strongly opposed by others, like Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who believes that it would put an unfair burden on Queens residents. In a statement issued yesterday, she described her people as being trapped in a "transit desert."
The NY Times published a statement yesterday, from Cuomo spokeswoman Beth DeFalco, outlining baby steps taken in Albany. "The M.T.A. received more than $1 billion from this year’s budget to help with its capital needs, including funding to provide unprecedented public transportation access to Bronx residents." In addition to this $250 million towards four new Metro-North stations in the Bronx, she added, "Work on the M.T.A. capital plan is continuing with all stakeholders.”