Transit advocates voice disappointment in state budget

The state budget for FY 2019 aims to raise short-term MTA funds while attempting to reduce road congestion.
Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP
By Mark Hallum

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget for 2019 set the ball in motion to reclaim the failing transit system in the city through short-term funding of projects in the outer boroughs and a requirement that the city pay up its half of the $836 million Subway Action Plan.

But the $168.3 billion budget failed to resonate with transit advocates, who claimed commuters would continue to feel the pain of widespread delays and meltdowns without a dedicated and comprehensive revenue stream for the MTA to set the subways back on track.

Transit advocates groups, led by Riders Alliance and including Transportation Alternatives, The Straphangers Campaign and StreetsPAC, issued a joint statement calling for the implementation of FixNYC’s congestion pricing proposal, which made no appearance in the budget released March 30.

“Our transit system is on life support. Fixing our transit system should have been Albany’s first priority this year; unfortunately, the final budget does not offer a credible plan to modernize the MTA, nor provide a sufficient revenue stream to make it possible. The crisis in our subways and on our streets will continue, and New Yorkers will continue to demand action from Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers,” the joint statement read. “First, Gov. Cuomo must use a portion of the new revenue to help implement comprehensive congestion pricing… and addressing needs in transit deserts around the city. Then the governor must establish, and commit to, a timeline to make congestion pricing a reality in New York.”

The FixNYC proposal released in January would place an EZPass charge of $11.52 on cars entering Manhattan during peak hours and a $25.34 fee for trucks to encourage overnight deliveries to businesses.

The plan would keep all East River bridges, which have been toll free for over a century, as they have been. But upon entering Manhattan, cars going south into the central business district would be charged a premium.

The plan has also seen opposition from Queens elected officials who represent the east side of the borough, as the charge could affect up to 5 percent of these residents.

The MTA will begin receiving the funds for the Subway Action Plan in April, and will be handed the full $836 million by the end of 2018.

Camera enforcement of bus lanes will take effect to improve service and raise money for the state while the budget amends the law to redirect funds collected from the Payroll Mobility Tax to the MTA.

Instead of a full launch of congestion pricing, however, the governor will enact a surcharge in the meantime of $2.75 on all for-hire vehicles entering Manhattan below 96th Street, which the Citizens Budget Commission said dodges creating meaningful change.

“New surcharges will be placed on trips made by taxis and for-hire vehicles in New York City’s central business district, but the can will be kicked down the road on a fuller congestion pricing plan to reduce traffic and provide a significant long-term revenue source,” the CBC statement said. “Instead, to increase short-term revenues, the city of New York will be forced to provide $418 million for the Subway Action Plan or have its sales tax revenues withheld–even though New York City taxpayers pay the overwhelming majority of MTA taxes and subsidies.”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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