DiNapoli Comes To Strapped Straphangers’ Rescue

Written by Jill Colvin on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

It looks like state politicians are starting to get a little
antsy about the fallout from the 6.5 percent transit fare hike that the MTA is
pushing for to bridge an expected $1.3 billion budget deficit. In a report
issued Monday (available here), state comptroller Tom DiNapoli urged the MTA to
“put commuters first” and hold off on plans to vote on the increase until more
is known about other potential sources of revenue.

The State Legislature, he
argued, is expected to make a decision about whether to implement the Mayor’s
congestion pricing scheme by the end of March, which could bring in millions.
DiNapoli also wants the city and state—which now contribute only 6% of the
city’s transit budget—to invest more money in the system. He pointed out that
the new State budget could include unexpected additional funds for the MTA. “When
we have those numbers, and we know better where we’re at, there will still be
plenty of time to consider a fare increase,” DiNapoli said. “But it really
seems to be jumping the gun to do the fare increase first.”

But Eliot Spitzer has already begun publicly criticizing the
DiNapoli report and gave no indication that he plans to up MTA funding: “Simply
saying, ‘Aha! We got congestion pricing, therefore no fare increase.’ Bad
logic, bad facts, don’t fall into that trap,” Spitzer said. He noted that even
if congestion pricing were implemented, funds wouldn’t start rolling in until
2009, at the earliest, and that the MTA is unlikely to be granted the nearly
$400 million in additional funds it has requested from the state. Well, that’s
not very generous now, is it.

In related transit news, the mayor announced yesterday that
the city has issued a Request for Expression of Interest from private companies
that would like to “design, implement and maintain” the infrastructure for his
congestion pricing scheme—the same scheme that was declared “dead” months ago
and hasn’t even been passed by the State Legislature. The federal government
has already promised $10.4 million to help with construction— far less than it
would cost to install the needed infrastructure—and Bloomberg said he believes
that hiring a private firm could be a viable alternative to government spending.
Does that mean our Subway Mayor’s a Republican after all?