This week's court ruling overturning New York's payroll-mobility tax, if upheld, would jeopardize the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's ability to provide reliable service to urban and suburban commuters across the region and undercut the region's economic potential for years to come.
The payroll tax law, adopted by the New York State Legislature in 2009 with the support of Regional Plan Association and a broad coalition of groups, provides more than 10% of the MTA's annual operating budget. Without these funds, the agency could be forced to cut service or raise fares on riders.
More than any other place in the U.S., this region's economy and transportation systems are built around mass transit -- subways, commuter rail and bus networks that represent more than one-third of total U.S. transit ridership. The MTA transit network is vital to the suburban regions of Westchester and Long Island, where more than a quarter million commuters rely on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North to travel to work and school every day.
Currently, the MTA is investing in major infrastructure work such as the East Side Access project that will greatly ease the commutes of tens of thousands of Long Island residents and attract new economic development to Nassau and Suffolk counties. This project is sorely needed in a portion of the region that has been underperforming other areas for more than a decade. And it will open up reverse commute opportunities for current and future Long Island employers who need access to the larger regional work force.
"The entire metropolitan region depends on the MTA's public-transportation network," said Robert D. Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association. "The elimination of the payroll levy would have severe consequences for the MTA and the state and regional economy at a time when we can't afford to jeopardize an already fragile economic recovery."