Bloated MTA spending more and losing more revenue than region can afford

The MTA currently provides only one track on its Port Jervis line, making life difficult for those on the West side of the Hudson.

By Kathy Kahn

A report released by the New York State Comptroller’s Office on October 10 blasted the handling of the bloated MTA’s record and the declining ridership on the NYC subways, which have recently added the glitzy Second Avenue Subway to its stable.

Among the talking points in the October report released by the NYS Comptroller:

  • Neither the LIRR nor Metro-North will meet the deadline to have Positive Train Control operating system-wide by the end of 2018, although both have made substantial progress. Both railroads expect completion by December 2020.
  • Annual subway ridership has declined for two consecutive years and had fallen by 2.8 percent through July 2018. (Weekday ridership fell in 2017 for the first time since 2009 and is expected to drop again this year, the first two-year decline since 1992.) The MTA believes the decline results from poor service, service disruptions from repair work, fare evasion, and increased competition from for-hire vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft.
  • The average distance that subway cars travel before breaking down was 121,000 miles last year, a small improvement over 2016, but well below the record of 178,000 miles reached in 2005. Almost one-third of the MTA’s subway cars are more than 30 years old.
  • The operating budget cost of East Side Access is estimated at $652 million through 2022 without any offsetting passenger revenue during this period. The cost of operating East Side Access in 2022 ($246 million) accounts for more than one-third of the MTA’s budget gap in that year.
  • The average subway and bus fare rose 53 percent since 2007, nearly three times faster than the rate of inflation. Fares and tolls are scheduled to rise four percent in 2019 and again in 2021.
  • Debt outstanding is projected to increase by $7 billion between 2017 and 2022 to reach $41.9 billion excluding the impact of the 2020-2024 capital program.

Ridership—or lack thereof—is also a problem in the Hudson Valley, where NJ Transit and Metro North both operate. The recent reduction of fares for New Jersey riders, leaving out those in Rockland who depend on NJ Transit, has been another bone of contention.

Many who depend on the West of Hudson line lament the loss of the second track on the Port Jervis line and who wonder why Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not include a rail system across the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Currently, I-87 north of the bridge is being expanded into four lanes—an arduous task and a very expensive one—so that lanes on the twin spans now crossing the Hudson will blend easily with the Thruway system. Commuters who rely on the bridge are now anxiously awaiting how much it will cost to cross in 2019.

To read the NYS Comptroller’s full report on the state of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, visit www.osc.state.ny.us.