Early Saturday morning, the New York State Assembly and Senate put the finishing touches on a far-reaching $168 billion budget–one with significant impacts for downstate transportation.
Firstly, the budget essentially forces New York City to pay for half of M.T.A. Chairman Joe Lhota’s $836 million Subway Action Plan, which seeks to stabilize the teetering subway system.
Mayor de Blasio had opposed paying the large sum without more oversight into M.T.A. operations, and had considered another means, a millionaire’s tax, to provide the money to the state-run agency. In a statement, spokesman Eric Phillips said that the budget “appears to respond to respond to the Mayor’s demands on behalf of the city’s straphangers.”
A partial win for transit advocates was a fitful start of congestion pricing in New York City. In order to raise more revenue for the M.T.A., and limit the number of cars in midtown Manhattan, new fees will apply to certain vehicles travelling below 96 St.
Beginning on January 1 of next year, a $2.75 surcharge will be applied to for-hire vehicle trips through apps such as Uber and Lyft, a $2.50 fee on taxis, and a $0.75 hit per passenger in pool vehicles.
All of the new money will go to the M.T.A., adding to the nearly $6.5 billion it receives each year in dedicated taxes and subsidies from both the City and State governments.
A coalition of transit advocacy groups, including Transportation Alternatives, The Straphangers Campaign, Riders Alliance, and StreetsPAC, blasted the plan saying it did not go far enough.
The coalition said that the “fixing our transit system should have been Albany’s first priority this year,” and that the transit system is “on life support.”
Lastly, Governor Cuomo’s proposal to siphon part of New York City’s property tax revenues to the M.T.A. appears to have been defeated.
The plan centered around “value capture”– some of the increase in property values created by M.T.A. capital projects would have been redirected back to the agency. The proposal drew the ire of many transit advocates and elected officials, since the taxes would be collected from new so-called transportation improvement subdistricts, under new powers to be given to the unelected M.T.A. board.