Two local lawmakers say the MTA is taking straphangers for a ride.
U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and Assemblymember Michael Tannousis held a conference Dec. 5 outside the 77th Street R train station to oppose the authority’s fare hike proposal.
The MTA wants to raise fares on subways, buses and commuter rail lines by 5.5 percent next year. According to Bloomberg, it would be the first such hike since 2019.
Last November, Gov. Kathy Hochul said fare hikes and service cuts for 2023 and 2024 were off the table because of the anticipated influx of money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). In January, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced a $6.19 billion lump sum grant to help the MTA recover from pandemic ridership losses.
Malliotakis said that despite more than $15 billion in pandemic relief aid from the federal government and additional funds that are available through the IIJA, the MTA is still reporting a $600 million budget shortfall for next year, with projected deficits of $1.2 billion in 2024 and $1.6 billion in 2026.
“The MTA is a black hole,” she said. “They’re constantly asking for more and more money. My question to the governor and the MTA is at what point is it enough where the MTA will be able to actually run its services without hitting our constituents over the head time and again?”
She said Hochul should look into how the authority manages its capital projects, including the East Side Access Project.
“We are still having this conversation, and as a result of these delays and mismanagement it is now a decade over schedule and $10 billion over budget,” she said.
Malliotakis believes the $600 million for the new Buffalo Bills stadium and millions in healthcare, stimulus and tuition assistance incentives for illegal immigrants are further examples of out-of-control state spending.
“If the MTA took only a fraction of the money New York wasted in the budget, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Tannousis said. “The taxpayer should be their number one priority.”
Hochul spokesperson John Lindsay said the governor took action last year to avoid a fare hike and service reductions.
“She is committed to providing safe, quality and reliable transit service to riders,” he said. “We will continue working with federal partners and state legislators on how to best support public transit.”
MTA Chief of External Relations John McCarthy said funding received during the pandemic “continues to be used to run service – including on Staten Island and in South Brooklyn – to ensure nurses, grocery workers, first responders, teachers and other New Yorkers could get to jobs, healthcare and other critical destinations.”
“Every bill that brought essential support to transit agencies, keeping trains and buses operating during a national emergency, included federal audit provisions that don’t require grandstanding by politicians to activate,” he said.