As MTA Waits for Capital Program Funding, Albany Remains Quiet

It's a line New Yorkers know well: the MTA has money problems. But as the agency hopes for full funding of its capital program, Governor Andrew Cuomo is keeping quiet on most things transit.

The new state budget hammered out by Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers contains billions of dollars in new spending for schools, roads and bridges, and the struggling upstate economy. But Albany did not address a $15 billon gap in the MTA'S $32 billion capital program to maintain a transit system straining under record ridership.

"You have people stuck on stalled trains, trains that aren't coming as reliably as they used to, we've got record ridership on the subways, and so you don't want any more stress by delaying maintenance and replacement," said Nicole Gelinas of the Manahttan Institute for Policy Research.

Gelinas says Cuomo seems more focused on transportation projects like the new Tappan Zee Bridge other than the subway. 

"He wants to add projects, with the new AirTrain to LaGuardia and Metro-North coming down to Penn Station. So the only thing left to do is raise money," she says.

Nearly 6 million people ride the subway each weekday, overwhelming some lines and increasing delays. Transit advocates warn that without a sense of urgency from lawmakers at all levels, it will be riders whose commutes get that much tougher.

"Transit service is going to get worse and worse the longer we ignore it," said John Raskin of Riders Alliance.

Kathryn Wilde of the Partnership for New York City, a business group, said companies whose employees rely on a healthy transit system are flustered by the MTA's growing problems.

"We have raised fares, we have raised tolls, we have issued $35 billion in debt with bond issues," she said. "None of that has been enough. We still face this huge shortfall."

Asked for comment,  Cuomo's office said, "Work on the MTA capital plan will continue with all stakeholders." It added that the budget does contain $1 billion in new MTA funding.

Advocates say that's not enough, and Wylde said the lack of action is frustrating.

"There has to be a serious conversation about, 'What do we do about the governance structure of the MTA?' Who's really in charge? Who's responsible?'" she said.

As riders look for someone to blame for that nasty commute.

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