How will NYC fund mass transportation needs? (commentary)

When it comes to public transportation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent  speech on his proposed $82.1 billion 2016-2017 fiscal year budget sounded great but provided little substance. He failed to give any specifics of how he will come up with $2.5 billion promised to meet the shortfall in the proposed $28 billion 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan.

The Mayor is kicking the can down the road. He hasn’t given any specific information on how the MTA and NYC will come up with funding to implement transportation projects advocated by many other NYC elected officials, constituents and transit advocates.

Just where does de Blasio stand on these ideas? Many NYC Council members are supporting the Commuter Rail Fare Equalization Proposal. This would allow NYC residents to pay the same $2.75 fare on the Long Island Rail Road or Metro North Rail Road as riding the New York City Transit Subway and provide a free transfer to the NYC subway. How will NYC provide the MTA with $200 million to cover the cost?

One billion dollars or more will be needed to construct Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway. What about finding $500 million to build the new #7 subway station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street? This was dropped from the original scope of work for the #7 subway Hudson Yards extension as a means to keep the project within a baseline $2.1 billion budget. In the end, the cost was $2.4 billion without this station.

Two hundred million is needed for the new Metro North Riverdale and West Bronx service to Penn Station. The LaGuardia Airport Train to the Plane base line budget of $450 million will require up to an additional $550 million, in the years to come.  The final cost may be close to $1 billion.

The $3 billion new Penn Station will end up needing far more than $300 million in combined assistance from the MTA, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak along with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Does anyone really believe that potential developers will spend $2.7 billion of their own funding to pay for this?

Staten Island residents will continue looking for up to $600 million for the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit. Don’t forget funding for West Shore Bus Rapid Transit along with new ferry services.

Queens residents will be looking for $100 million toward the $200 million Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service. These dollars may be necessary if the city Department of Transportation is unable to secure $100 million in Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding.

Others will continue to lobby for $100 million to construct Light Rail between Glendale and Long Island City on the old Montauk LIRR branch; restoration of LIRR service on the old Rockaway LIRR branch at $1 billion; Triboro X Subway Express (new subway line connecting the Bronx, Queens & Brooklyn) for $1-to-$2 billion); Main Street Flushing Intermodal Bus Terminal, $100 million, reopening the Woodhaven Boulevard Atlantic Branch LIRR Station, $40 million and most recently the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Street Car Connector at a cost of $2.5 billion.  This would connect various neighborhoods along the waterfront from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens.

Mayor de Blasio’s earlier “One NYC” Master Plan called for construction of the Utica Avenue subway originally proposed in 1910. He has asked the MTA to initiate a feasibility study for this proposal. The concept would construct extensions for both the #3 and #4 original IRT subway lines in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. It would be built along Utica Avenue from Eastern Parkway to Avenue U. Costs for both the first phase of Second Avenue and #7 subway line extensions averaged $2 billion-plus per mile. One can only imagine how many billions would be required to do the same along Utica Avenue.

Many neighborhoods are looking for introduction of either Select Bus Service (SBS), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Limited Stop Bus to Subway or Express Bus Service to Manhattan. There is still the need to bring many of the 468 NYC Transit subway, 21 Long Island Rail Road, 13 Metro North Rail Road and 23 Staten Island Rapid Transit stations back up to a state of good repair. Don’t forget the need for additional subway, LIRR, Metro North and SIRT stations to become fully compliant with the Americans for Disability Act (ADA) by construction of elevators.

Where does de Blasio think the MTA will find the cash for all these projects? The Federal Transit Administration and state may be possible funding sources for some of these projects. Clearly, NYC will have to contribute some significant funding if many of these projects will ever see the light of day.

By Larry Penner

(The writer is a transportation historian and advocate. He worked in the transportation field for 31 years.)

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