Queens lawmakers have announced a multimillion-dollar funding agreement meant to bring future improvements to transportation in the city’s outer boroughs.
A $50 million annual fund will be established and dedicated to funding transit upgrades in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. The funding was announced as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget for the 2019 fiscal year.
Funding will be sourced in part through a surcharge on for-hire vehicles operating below 96th Street in Manhattan. A $2.75 per trip surcharge will be enacted on for-hire vehicles (like Uber and Lyft). Yellow cabs and pooled trips will also be hit with $2.50 and $0.75 surcharges, respectively.
The funding collected through this system will go into an MTA “lock box” and will provide long-term funding to the outer borough transit improvements. Exactly what those improvements would entail were not immediately provided; under this new revenue stream, however, Queens lawmakers can coordinate improvement projects for each of their districts.
A number of Queens Assembly members spoke out in favor of the funding allocation.
“While the transportation crisis in New York City has worsened, my colleagues and I have fought tirelessly this year to ensure that the state budget finally helps riders in outer boroughs whose needs have gone unmet for far too long,” Flushing-based Assemblywoman Nily Rozic said. “As a representative of an area with no subway or train lines and very limited bus options, I look forward to working on ensuring that these funds are properly allocated to improve Queens transit.”
Edward Braunstein, who covers areas of Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck, said the secured funding will be used to improve transit options “in some of the most under-served parts” of the city.
The city’s transit system is “beyond the breaking point,” Maspeth-based lawmaker Brian Barnwell said in a statement.
“Outer borough transit riders deserve these funds, and my colleagues and I will make sure these funds are used to fix our transit system in the outer boroughs,” he added.
Last year, Cuomo formed the advisory Fix NYC panel to come up with proposals to address congestion on the city’s roads and highways. After the group released its report in January, Queens Assembly members — especially those representing the eastern portion of the borough — expressed concerns that proposed transit solutions would not serve the outer boroughs.
In the state budget announcement, Cuomo also signaled complete funding for the $836 million MTA Subway Action Plan, slated to address system failures, breakdowns, delays and customer service through repairs and future modernization. The city is required to contribute half of the funding for the plan. The plan will also be funded in part by the MTA “lock box.”
“The [Fix NYC] report accurately points out that the objective is not to raise tolls entering the borough of Manhattan, but more specifically those trips adding to the congestion in a defined central business district,” Cuomo said in a statement on Jan. 19. “But, as a born and raised Queens boy, I have outer borough blood in my veins, and it is my priority that we keep costs down for hard-working New Yorkers, and encourage use of mass transit. We must also find a way to reduce the costs for outer borough bridges in any plan ultimately passed.”