The MTA's debt is greater than that of at least 30 of the world's nations, according to a report from the Straphanger's Campaign. How much debt is that? $34.1 billion, which puts it deeper in the hole than such countries as Costa Rica, Slovenia and Latvia [PDF].
The agency has spent a total of $105 billion on new trains and buses, in addition to overhauling stations and replacing worn out tracks and signals. The heavy borrowing for capital projects began in 1982, and the MTA is anticipated this year to spend $2.2 billion in annual "debt service" to pay off its outstanding bonds—a whole 17 percent of its $13.5 billion operating budget for the year.
“Heavy reliance on borrowing to fix transit is crushing riders like a packed subway car at rush hour,” Gene Russianoff, the attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, said in a statement.
Asked for comment on the report, MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan simply said, "The economic health of the world's second largest regional economy depends on a well-functioning transit system, which in turn is made possible by the MTA’s Capital Program."
In his State of the City speech on Monday, Mayor de Blasio placed blame for the MTA's $15.2 billion capital budget shortfall squarely on Albany. "The state has not put forward a plan to address that yet, nor has the state met its obligation in terms of some of the other infrastructure—roads and bridges—that are obviously are aging, he said.
An audit by the state comptroller [PDF] released in October shows that for every billion dollars the MTA has to borrow to meet the shortage, riders will experience a 1 percent hike in fares, in addition to the 4 percent hikes that kicked in this year and will again in 2017.
Nevertheless, Cuomo previously referred to the MTA's request for $15.2 billion to pay for its $32 billion capital budget as "bloated," insisting that the state could meet the agency's capital needs without any new revenue sources, including new taxes or bridge tolls.
If you want to know more about where your money is going, (re)watch this helpful video.