Straphangers could pay more for subway rides if the MTA doesn’t get more money to get the trains back on track. The transit authority may have to hike fares absent new, consistent revenue to fund needed repairs to the deteriorating subway system, according to a report state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released Thursday.
DiNapoli’s office estimates the MTA will be paying an extra $300 million annually — the equivalent of a 4 percent fare increase — for subway maintenance after it finishes phase one of Chairman Joe Lhota’s Subway Action Plan in 2018.
The MTA hiked fares on the subways and its suburban commuter railroads 4 percent this year. It’s planning similar hikes in 2019 and 2021. But that pace may need to accelerate to cover growing maintenance costs and the MTA’s long-term capital plan, DiNapoli’s report says.
“In the absence of adequate funding, the system could fall into further disrepair and riders could face unplanned fare hikes,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The state and city need to find solutions to prevent these possibilities from becoming reality, and the MTA must make the best use of its resources.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo disagree on how to bolster the MTA’s coffers. Cuomo supports a “congestion pricing” plan to impose tolls on cars crossing the city’s East River bridges, while de Blasio wants to raise income taxes on the richest New Yorkers.
But MTA officials “categorically reject the idea of any unplanned fare increases,” Lhota said in a statement. A de Blasio spokesman agreed that “asking straphangers to foot the bill is unacceptable.”
“Funding subway repairs will not come on the backs of riders and the comptroller is fear-mongering by injecting unplanned fare increases into the public discourse,” Lhota said.
Lhota said he’s “extremely encouraged” by rising public support for congestion pricing. But de Blasio’s spokesman, Austin Finan, said the mayor’s so-called millionaire’s tax proposal is the “only” solution.
“While the State continues to sit on its hands, the Mayor has put forth a plan backed by the majority of New Yorkers that calls on millionaires and billionaires to chip in a little extra,” Finan said in a statement.
The subway system needs major fixes to prevent the city’s transit crisis from worsening, DiNapoli’s report says. About a third of all subway trains are more than 30 years old. On average, a train travels 112,000 miles before breaking down — the shortest distance since 2001, according to the report.
The MTA’s yet-to-be-released 2020-2024 Capital Program will fund major upgrades, including the seccond phases of the Second Avenue Subway and Lhota’s Subway Action Plan. But it’s uncertain that the plan will get needed federal funding, and the state has yet to identify how it’s paying for its share, DiNapoli’s report says.
“Without additional assistance from its traditional funding partners,” such as the city and the state, “the MTA will have to raise fares and tolls faster than already planned to maintain, modernize and expand the system,” the report says.
The MTA has long planned to increase fares every other year as its costs continue to rise. But this year’s hike proved controversial. The MTA Board decided to raise Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad fares while keeping the subway fare at $2.75, though the cost of weekly and monthly unlimited MetroCards increased.
This summer, MTA Board members pushed back on the idea of continuing biennial fare increases, saying the agency should look for other revenue sources, The New York Times reported