The problem with the MTA… is itself

In a recent story, Marc Santora of the New York Times explored why the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, is controlled by the State of New York, instead of more local jurisdictions like New York City. What that article exposed is the fundamental flaw that is holding back the region’s transportation infrastructure: the MTA itself.

When the MTA was formed back in the 1960s, it served as a big bucket for the various private transit companies that has gone bankrupt as well as assorted other public agencies. This included the Long Island Rail Road, IND, IRT, and BMT subway systems, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and others. Part of the reason for absorbing so many disparate systems was to centralize the Governor’s control over transportation matters, as opposed to local bulwarks like Robert Moses.

To this day, the structure of the MTA has not changed much. It is still effectively a holding company, with control over six different sub-agencies that provide transportation services to over two billion people annually.

Photo Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

It is unclear if the public is well served by the current arrangement, which unites many different jurisdictions and types of riders. One could say that Connecticut riders of Metro-North are at as disadvantage as opposed to New York riders, because there are no MTA board seats allotted for Connecticut, even though Connecticut riders compose roughly half of Metro-North’s ridership. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio fumed on WNYC that it is “a fantasy” to believe that Cuomo is not in charge of the MTA.


It remains to be seen how Cuomo will address his critics, and move forward.

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