This morning, the de Blasio administration announced it will match the MTA's September 2014 request for Capital Plan funding—$125 million annually, up from $100 million in previous years, totaling $657 million between now and 2019. Also this morning, in the immediate wake of the mayor's announcement, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast sent an impassioned letter to the mayor's office asking for more funding: to the tune of $300 million annually, in order to keep "maintaining the good repair of the system." We wouldn't want standards to slip, after all.
An MTA spokesman would not comment on the surprising confluence of Prendergast's letter with the City's $657 million announcement. However, mayor's office spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick issued a frosty statement this morning:
"After our budget went to print with full funding for the MTA’s request, we were surprised to learn this morning that they both nearly tripled their general capital ask and requested another $1 billion. As the Mayor has repeatedly said, we are committed to working with the State and our regional partners to find a long-term plan for this vital State authority."
Prendergast's letter, which the MTA shared with us, also asks for an additional $1 billion from the city over the five-year capital plan, to help complete the tenuous Second Avenue Subway Line. His tone throughout the letter is blunt:
The MTA and its transit systems are at a crossroads. Ridership has never been higher. The city's population has grown, and its location has shifted, putting pressure on... the entire system. As an example, every day the Lexington Avenue line alone carries as many riders as the Chicago and Boston systems combined. Our trains are more crowded. Our platforms are filled with riders awaiting the next train. This capacity crush unavoidably causes delays.
The letter goes on to point out that if the City's contribution had kept pace with inflation since the MTA's first Capital Plan, put forward in 1982, the annual contribution would be an even greater $363 million per year.
The MTA is currently facing a daunting capital budget deficit of $14 billion.
Mayor de Blasio stressed today that the City's additional funding is by no means intended to be the answer to all of the MTA's money problems. He also mentioned that he'll be visiting Washington, D.C. next week, in an attempt to secure $2 billion in annual mass-transit and highway funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund—funding that will become obsolete unless federal lawmakers renew it at the end of May. He added:
Mass transit is a lifeline for New Yorkers, especially for the working families, students, and seniors who need it most. But a broader consensus is needed on how we're going to sustain and grow the MTA.
Prendergast, who last week said not to worry about a potential 15% fare hike, is sounding increasingly exasperated. He wrote in conclusion, "The role of the city's mass transit system is historical and obvious. Some have said that the city didn't build the subways... the subways built the city."