Celebrating that subway ridership approached 4 million one day last week is a feeble cheerleading effort by Gov. Hochul and the MTA to mask a huge problem: Before COVID permanently upended office life and the commuting to remote work, the the average number of trips during the week was 5.5 milliona number that had been fairly constant for years.
One and a half million missing tickets at $2.75 each exceeds the $4 million per day missing in the ticket box. Multiply that by 260 weekdays a year is a trillion dollars missing a year. Instead of bringing in $3.6 billion from temporary workers to keep the trains running, the forecast for this year is just $2.6 billion. The billions in COVID aid from the feds will not be replenished.
Making the remaining riders take on the $1 billion slack would mean a 38% fare increase, an extra $1.05, for a $3.80 trip, a terribly regressive burden for those people who can’t work remotely.
Another really bad option is to cut service.
Which means the third way forward is to increase direct funding for transit, a government function as critical as schools or police and fire protection.
Hochul wisely proposed raising the MTA payroll tax, along with the shakier idea of relying on speculative one-off application fees from prospective casinos and ongoing dedicated revenue from gambling halls. Having the City cover 100% of the cost of student MetroCards and the horrible Access-A-Ride paratransit system is not adding new money to transit.
In their own budget plans, both the State Senate and the Assembly rejected New York City’s claim, which was correct, but they also wrongly said no to raising the payroll tax, and the Senate blew the hole even bigger. by exempting some suburban counties from having to pay
To attract more money, the Legislature has proposed increases in the corporate franchise surcharge, the corporate income tax rate, and the personal income tax for millionaires. There is also the sales tax that could be increased a bit.
Hochul and the Legislature must now find the right match.
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