The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is a boondoggle of debt, mismanagement, and hypocrisy! The MTA’s outstanding long-term debt has tripled in the last two decades and the percentage of revenue it must put toward those debts has also grown dramatically. During the past decade, the MTA generally spent about 16 percent of its operating revenue on debt payments, but by 2024 debt service will devour 23 percent of revenues. Debt service is projected to reach $3.8 billion by 2028, which is $1.1 billion or 42 percent more than in 2020.
A recent report from Moody’s Investors Service puts bleak numbers on the future of mass transit agencies. The report states that changes in working patterns and lifestyle will trigger a permanent drop in mass transit systems’ ridership compared to pre-pandemic levels, creating an enduring loss of operating revenue for the largest public transit agencies in Europe and North America, including the MTA.
Since, they are so desperate to see people return to mass transit, and since the economy remains sluggish in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the MTA board announced they will delay raising fares until 2022 because “this would send the wrong message to be raising fares right now.” Yet somehow this message does not apply to motorists or businesses who are also struggling due to the pandemic. As motorists recently learned, the MTA’s desperation for cash does not only mean increased tolls, it means increased penalties on top of tolls.
Adding insult to injury, a week after honoring truck drivers for their heroism during the worst of the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio appointed the city’s finance commissioner, Sherif Soliman, to the Traffic Mobility Review Board, which the state created to oversee congestion pricing. Department of Finance is notorious for gaming the system to balance NYC’s budget on fines and fees on the backs of trucking companies, small businesses, and low income New Yorkers. Trucks will disproportionately suffer from congestion pricing as they deliver where they must, without options like taking the subway.
Trucks are the engine which drives our economy, not a cash cow for the MTA. To assess new fees on those who operate trucks in the course of their business simply to generate money to subsidize the unaccountable, mismanaged MTA, will not address congestion and merely kicks the can down the road. We must end the MTA’s borrow, spend, whine, repeat cycle. Instead of looking to squeeze more revenue out of trucking, we should be fixing the MTA, expanding mass transit and improving infrastructure to ease congestion, growing the local economy and discussing how to fairly pay for it all.