On Wednesday, the MTA board voted to cut service across the system, eliminating the W and V trains and many bus routes, cutting commuter train runs, and significantly reducing the Access-a-Ride and Able-Ride services relied upon by disabled and elderly residents. Most of the cuts will take effect in June. The cuts represents a failure by Albany to properly fund transit in the region. The approved service cuts will save the MTA just $93 million, but were passed after the state cut MTA funding by $143 million. The MTA is still facing a $400 million budget gap because revenue from the payroll tax passed over the summer has come in far below state projections.
Other transit and transportation issues are in play as New York state officials discuss the state’s budget. The State Senate and Assembly passed budget resolutions this week, with major differences on NYC student fares, bus lane enforcement cameras, and the State DOT capital program:
|Contribution to student MetroCards (was $45 million before 2009)||$25 million||$35 million||$65 million|
|Allow New York City bus lane cameras?||Yes – up to 50 miles of lanes||No||Yes – existing lanes only (43 miles)|
|NYSDOT capital plan (five-year $25.8B plan vetoed by governor)||two years, $7B||two years, $7B||two years, $10B|
The MTA did not vote to cut student MetroCards on Wednesday. Earlier in the month MTA Chairman Jay Walder met with students and agreed to postpone the vote to give students time to meet with city and state officials. The cost of providing free student MetroCards has risen as the student population has increased, and is now $214 million according to the MTA. But the city and state have not increased aid to match; since 1995 they have each contributed $45 million per year — and last year, the state cut its contribution to $6 million. The State Senate’s budget proposal is a good first step and would raise the state share to $65 million, significantly more than Gov. Paterson and the Assembly have proposed.
Bus lane enforcement cameras have also had an up-and-down trip through Albany. While the executive budget would allow NYC to enforce up to 50 miles of bus lanes, the Senate budget would restrict it to the 43 miles of lanes that currently exist, crippling the city’s ability to enforce new rapid bus projects planned for 1st and 2nd Avenues in Manhattan and Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. The Assembly rejected the program entirely. As Streetsblog reports, legislators who support this measure (such as Sens. Liz Krueger and Velmanette Montgomery and Assm. Jonathan Bing) are working to get the original language back in both budgets.
There’s also a difference when it comes to the NYSDOT capital program. Last year Gov. Paterson vetoed the agency’s $25.8 billion, five-year capital plan and suggested a two-year, $7 billion plan instead. The Assembly agreed, while the Senate recommended increasing it to a two-year, $10 billion plan (though it is not clear how this would be funded).
Observers expect drawn-out negotiations before a final budget is adopted. As far apart as the governor and both houses of the legislature are on transportation, they are even further apart on other issues.