New York, under the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, is set to give $2 billion to Amazon, one of the richest corporations in the world, for the honor of letting them destroy Queens. The Amazon deal, and the completely undemocratic way Cuomo plans to implement it, is shameful enough. But what’s even worse is that it’s happening at the same time that the New York City subway, a transportation system relied upon by a staggering 5 million people a day, is crumbling before our eyes.
According to the New York Times, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the entity that controls the subway, is facing a budget crisis of epic proportions. The crisis could make the already failing system even worse, leading to service cuts and increased fares. A fare increase is already planned for March, which could bring the cost for a single subway ride to $3. But if the MTA doesn’t figure out its revenue problem soon, fares could increase by an additional 15 percent over the next few years.
“Until we can get sustainable additional revenue streams, we really have no choice but to look everywhere—including to our riders—to help us fill those holes,” subway leader Andy Byford said in a budget meeting in front of the MTA board.
Cuomo, shockingly, isn’t helping.
From the Times:
The authority’s worsening financial picture comes after the abrupt departure of its chairman, Joseph J. Lhota, who resigned this monthafter Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was elected to a third term. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who controls the authority, said during the campaign that he wanted to cancel the March fare increase because of poor service.
On Thursday, Peter Ajemian, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, reiterated his position: “As the governor has said, there should be no fare increase until riders get the service they deserve.”
Cuomo’s posturing over the subway’s problems is absurd. As Governor, Cuomo directly controls the MTA, and it’s his fault that the great transportation system has sunk so low.
A recent article from The Week neatly summarized how Cuomo oversees the subway’s governance, and how he’s used that power:
The governor directly nominates the CEO, chairman, and five members of the MTA’s 17-person board. He has further influence over the outside counties which nominate a further four seats. New York City itself only gets five seats — and even then they have to be confirmed by the New York Senate, where the governor holds the balance of power. [...]
Instead of recognizing the absolutely vital nature of the subway, [Cuomo] has been shockingly hostile to public transit in general, deliberately undermining and underfunding it from the beginning of his term. He has done nothing about the cost problem.
New York’s population has grown in recent years, but city officials report that ridership has actually decreased, leading to the system’s declining revenue. Officials say that ride sharing services like Uber are to blame, but it’s also possible that the constant delays and repairs have simply made the subway a less practical option for many New Yorkers.
“Riders have been paying more every two years for almost a decade,” John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance, told the Times. “But in that time, public transit service has deteriorated.”
As an alternate solution to the mounting cost of repairing the subway, which the Times estimates as $40 billion over the next ten years, Cuomo has suggested congestion pricing, which would enact a toll on drivers in Manhattan. But that plan alone won’t cover such a steep price tag. An in addition to the cost of repairs, the subway’s deficit is expected to grow to $510 million by 2020, while the MTA’s debt will reach $42 billion in 2022.
In January, the MTA board will vote on the proposed increase in fares and tolls. The MTA’s leader says he’s still looking for other options.
“We don’t want to go down this route,” Byford said. “It’s anathema to me.”