The MTA Fuels the Upstate Economy, Too

Not surprisingly, most of the debate over the MTA’s financial problems has occurred in the MTA’s 12-county downstate service area, where transit riders face massive fare hikes and service cuts. But the entire state will lose out if the transit agency crumbles. As an MTA report released in March 2008, titled “The Economic Impact of MTA Capital Program Investment on New York State,” points out, the same transit projects that keep the NYC metropolitan area moving keep many upstate cities and towns working.

Overall, the MTA supports thousands of jobs in at least 37 cities in upstate NY.  Many New Yorkers — and perhaps even some upstate legislators who must vote on the Ravitch Commission plan to fund the MTA with a downstate payroll tax and East and Harlem River bridge tolls — may not know that Bombardier Transportation’s Plattsburgh plant manufactures New York City’s subway cars (model R142). This production branches out to smaller industries like SMC Pneumatics in Henrietta (located near Rochester) which manufactures subway door parts.  Components for MTA express buses are produced in Falconer, one of the westernmost cities in the state, and a business in Utica provides sheet metal for NYC Transit buses. Even station projects support landscapers from Fort Plain and steel producers from Albany.

The Dutchess County Legislature and Orange County Chamber of Commerce recently came out against a payroll tax to help fund the MTA’s capital projects. It’s not clear if Metro-North part manufacturers in Middletown or subway car interior builders in Poughkeepsie were even part of the discussion.

MTA capital projects also provide jobs at dozens of companies on Long Island, in Westchester and Rockland Counties, and NYC. The report estimates that the 2005-2009 MTA Capital Program supports 18,500 to 38,500 jobs annually over a 9-year period (some contracts entered into as part of the capital program normally take years beyond the end of the program to fulfill). It also generates:

  • $29.2 billion in economic activity/sales,
  • $1.1 billion in state and local personal income and sales taxes,
  • and $11.8 billion in wages and salaries.

Discussion of the Ravitch plan needs to include the thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in wages, sales, taxes, and activity, and the economic vitality of the region that will be lost if Governor Paterson and the State Legislature do not reach a sustainable and equitable funding solution for mass transit. From the western corner of the state to the eastern corner of Long Island, there is a lot at stake.

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