Today the MTA board voted to increase the transit fares and the 30-day unlimited MetroCard will rise above $100 for the first time beginning in January. When New York City straphangers pay their fare, they are likely to think that their money is going towards running the buses and trains. But the reality is that 40 cents of every dollar you spend on your subway fare is being used to pay for past borrowing, a result of the poor decisions of Albany lawmakers. Now these poor decisions have resulted in the worst service cuts in a generation, and transit riders are being asked to pay even more money for less service.
Let's go back for a moment to 1992. That's the year that the state stopped contributing any money for repairs, maintenance, and expansion of the transit system. Instead of the responsible approach towards transit, lawmakers instructed the MTA to borrow funds for basic maintenance and other capital needs. The result is that today the MTA holds $28 billion in debt and spends $1.8 billion every year on debt payments. By 2014, that figure will rise to $2.4 billion.
Straphangers are directly impacted by the MTA's massive debt. Money to pay down past borrowing is taken directly out of the pot of money that should be used to run the buses and trains. And it means that if subway stations are ever to be brought back into decent condition, the MTA will be forced to borrow even more money. In fact, because state lawmakers have absolutely no plan to solve the MTA budget, MTA executives are being forced to borrow an additional $9 billion over the next five years for basic upkeep.
This is true fiscal irresponsibility on the part of Albany. And it appears that lawmakers have no clue about how MTA finances actually work, or that it is they who in fact control whether transit riders are hit with fare increases and worsening service.