February 25, 2013
Marc Bussanich (Photo courtesy of TWU Local 100)
Single-ride and monthly Metro Cards are slated to go up next month but the MTA is cost cutting and forecasting long-term financial challenges to achieve balanced budgets. Seven 2014 mayoral hopefuls were asked at a transit forum at CUNY whether they would support an increase in city spending to fund and sustain the city’s mass transit system. Most of the hopefuls said they would not if elected. Read More and Watch Video
Only John Liu, the city’s comptroller, called for increasing the city’s contribution. Currently the city allocates .2 percent annually and the hopefuls were asked if they would increase it to 1 percent of the city’s budget.
“To spend 1 percent on mass transit is already a pence. Only spending [currently] one-fifth of 1 percent of the city’s $70 billion budget is deplorable. While mass transit passengers in the city pay 60 percent of the actual cost of a ride, the national average is 40 percent,” said Liu.
Liu noted that federal and state money could help, but that the city has to invest and spend more money to upgrade and support the mass transit system that carries an average weekday subway and bus ridership of over 5 million and 2 million, respectively. (MTA figures for 2011)
“Increasing the city’s funding by $560 million is a lot of money, but we’re already spending hundreds of millions every year giving it away to corporations and private developers that were supposed to create jobs…but in most cases they’re not,” Liu said. (Last week, Liu’s office threatened to reject future contracts with the high-tech giant HP for failing to reimburse the city $163 million for overbilling on projects such as the 911-call center.)
In contrast to Liu’s proposition to increase the city’s spending for mass transit, Republican candidate, Tom Allon, said he would not.
“The next administration’s problem is figuring out how to pay for what we have. Anybody who tells you they can increase it is lying because we’re going to have to make some tough choices,” said Allon.
Allon said the city could raise over $1 billion from the sale of taxi medallions that could be invested into mass transit. He used the opportunity to issue a barb at the public advocate, Bill de Blasio, for blocking the sale of medallions, who in turn replied that, in fact, the state’s Supreme Court struck down Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to sell additional taxi medallions.
Mr. de Blasio and former comptroller, Bill Thompson, said that expiring labor contracts for city employees at the end of the year is a ticking time bomb that would hamper the city’s efforts to fund mass transit, while Council Speaker Christine Quinn said it would be irresponsible to say in February that she would support an increase in city spending before she knows the numbers for next year’s budget in June.
Adolfo Carrion Jr. said he doesn’t know if the city can afford an increase, but funds might become available if the federal government increased funding for mass transit from the current 15 cents for each dollar invested on public transportation.