The only solution to the MTA’s funding crisis is either a congestion pricing or a 30 percent fare hike, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told lawmakers on Thursday.
Cuomo proposed a congestion pricing plan to the New York state legislature as the only “logical and realistic” option to fund the transit authority and avoid another MTA fare hike.
Speaking at the Association for a Better New York, Cuomo put the decision in the state legislature’s hands, but emphasized his belief that congestion pricing along with a clear person in power would be the best way to fix the beleaguered system years in the making.
“The MTA has been plagued by organizational dysfunction and disinvestment for decades, and we need better management and more money to turn it around,” he said in a statement.
“Congestion pricing is the only logical and realistic option to fund the MTA’s capital needs and one person must have the authority to make decisions, hire and fire, and reorganize,” he added. “Let the Legislature cast their vote on the real choice — congestion pricing or 30 percent fare and toll increases. It’s A or B because there is no C. If the public understands the critical choice their elected officials are making, congestion pricing will prevail.”
This 30 percent fare and toll increase would be on top of the MTA fare hike already being discussed by officials. MTA board members are considering two possible increases, one which would bring keep the base MetroCard fare at $2.75 but eliminate bonus fares and raise monthly fares, and another which would raise the base MetroCard fare to $3, along with other hikes.
If a congestion pricing plan isn’t passed, Cuomo said, those fares could go up even more.
Speaking to CBSN, State Sen. Michael Gianaris said he’s a supporter of congestion pricing but hasn’t heard of the potential 30 percent MTA fare hike before Cuomo brought it up.
“I think the governor is being a little creative to identify the scope of the problem for people and encourage them to focus congestion pricing as a solution,” he said. “And hopefully it’ll never come anything close to that.”
Congestion pricing, MTA board majority—Cuomo’s plan to fix the MTA
A congestion pricing surcharge already went into effect on Manhattan for-hire rides below 96th Street, but Cuomo is calling for a more encompassing congestion pricing plan to tackle the MTA’s nearly $40 billion debt.
His congestion pricing plan, which needs to be passed by the state legislature, would charge a toll for those entering the Manhattan Central business below district 60th Street and raise an estimated $15 billion for the MTA’s next capital plan.
This would minimally impact commuters coming from the outer boroughs, per Cuomo. According to U.S. Census data, 2.3 percent of Staten Island residents commute by car into Manhattan, the most out of any outer borough. Queens follows with 2.2 percent of its residents, the Bronx with 1.9 percent and Brooklyn with 1.3 percent.
A quarter of all those who commute into Manhattan and thus would have to pay a congestion pricing toll would be from out of state, according to the governor’s office.
Cuomo has some other goals he wants the state legislature to accomplish in order to fix the MTA, like finding a way to stop subway fare evasion (which costs the MTA $215 million in revenue a year), reorganizing the MTA’s internal operations and “streamlining” its thousands of employees, and restructuring the MTA board to give a single official a majority of nominees.
The MTA board typically has 17 voting members, four of which are selected by the New York City mayor, seven by the regional County Executives outside of the five boroughs and five plus the chairman appointed by the governor.
“An overhauled bureaucracy and singular responsibility would lead to crucial reforms,” per Cuomo’s office. “With authority clearly designated and funding secured, the MTA will be able to function as an efficient, effective, model for the world that New Yorkers deserve.”