MTA Ridership Is Surging. Funding Needs to Keep Pace

Former MTA Chief Executive and RPA Chairman Lee Sander addresses a news conference at Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 13.

The former heads of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority assembled together today for the first time to call on leaders in Albany to support the transit agency's new funding proposal. The MTA chiefs, accompanied by representatives from environmental, transportation and labor organizations, told a news conference at Grand Central Terminal that support for the transit system is essential to the health and vitality of the New York metropolitan region.

Led by former MTA Chief Executive and RPA Chairman Elliot Sander and former Chairmen Peter Stangl and Jay Walder, the speakers urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to identify new revenue sources to fund the MTA's proposal and avoid loading up the agency with additional debt.

A fully funded capital plan would support both crucial maintenance and important upgrades to subways, buses and commuter trains, including new Metro-North stations in the Bronx and access for the railroad to Penn Station; the start of construction on the second phase of the Second Avenue subway, extending the line into Harlem; and new technology to replace the subway’s early 20th century operating system and improve the system’s frequency and reliability. Imagine an end to "signal delays." (See "5 Reasons to Fully Fund the MTA Capital Plan.")

Nearly three billion trips were taken on the MTA’s subways, buses and commuter trains in 2013. In 2014, daily MTA ridership broke records multiple times. While the MTA's proposed $32 billion capital plan is sizeable -- with $15 billion in funding yet to be identified -- it still falls short of what is needed to keep pace with the growing demand. For too long, the MTA has had to rely on insufficient and uncertain funding, which has slowed crucial upgrades to commuter rails, subways, bridges, tunnels and buses, even as ridership grows. At the same time, MTA spending to service its debt has surged to more than $2 billion annually as the agency is forced to borrow to fund major projects.

The event was hosted by the Empire State Transportation Alliance, a coalition of business, civic, labor and environmental organizations. Other participants included Richard T. Anderson, President, New York Building Congress; Marcia Bystryn, President, New York League of Conservation Voters; John Raskin, Executive Director, Riders Alliance; Ross Pepe, President, Construction Industry Council; Norman Brown, Legislative Director, NY State Council of Machinists; Kevin Corbett, Vice President, Corporate Development, AECOM USA; Alex Matthiessen, President, Blue Marble Project; Bill Henderson, Executive Director, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA; Justin Bernbach, Government Relations Director, HNTB; Samantha Wilt, Energy Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council; and Bob Yaro, Senior Advisor, Regional Plan Association.

Read the full news release.

--Wendy Pollack