DiNapoli Comes To Strapped Straphangers’ Rescue

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It looks like state politicians are starting to get a little antsy about the fallout from the 6.5 percent transit fare hike that the MTA is pushing for to bridge an expected $1.3 billion budget deficit. In a report issued Monday (available [here]), state comptroller Tom DiNapoli urged the MTA to “put commuters first” and [hold off on plans to vote on the increase](http://www.amny.com/news/local/am-mta0808,0,1746206.story) until more is known about other potential sources of revenue.

The State Legislature, he argued, is expected to make a decision about whether to implement the Mayor’s congestion pricing scheme by the end of March, which could bring in millions. DiNapoli also wants the city and state—which now contribute only 6% of the city’s transit budget—to invest more money in the system. He pointed out that the new State budget [could include unexpected additional funds] for the MTA. “When we have those numbers, and we know better where we're at, there will still be plenty of time to consider a fare increase,” DiNapoli said. “But it really seems to be jumping the gun to do the fare increase first.”

But Eliot Spitzer has [already begun publicly criticizing] the DiNapoli report and gave no indication that he plans to up MTA funding: “Simply saying, ‘Aha! We got congestion pricing, therefore no fare increase.’ Bad logic, bad facts, don't fall into that trap,” Spitzer said. He noted that even if congestion pricing were implemented, funds wouldn’t start rolling in until 2009, at the earliest, and that the MTA is unlikely to be granted the nearly $400 million in additional funds it has requested from the state. Well, that’s not very generous now, is it.

In related transit news, the mayor [announced yesterday] that the city has issued a [Request for Expression of Interest](http://www.nycedc.com/Web/AvailableProjects/RFPsRFQsRFEIs/ImplementationofCityProposedCongestionPricingPlanRFEI.htm) from private companies that would like to “design, implement and maintain” the infrastructure for his congestion pricing scheme—the same scheme that was [declared “dead”](http://www.nypost.com/seven/06202007/news/regionalnews/mikes_auto_cratic_plan_dead_for_good__pols_regionalnews_kenneth_lovett.htm) months ago and hasn’t even been passed by the State Legislature. The federal government has already promised $10.4 million to help with construction— far less than it would cost to install the needed infrastructure—and Bloomberg said he believes that hiring a private firm could be a viable alternative to government spending. Does that mean our Subway Mayor’s a Republican after all?

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