Mica Transportation Bill Would Devastate New York Transit

The Senate Democrats predict enormous cuts to transit funding in the New York region if the Republican transportation bill becomes law. Image: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Rep. John Mica’s proposed transportation bill would take a machete to federal transportation spending, cutting overall transportation funding by a third and entirely eliminating dedicated funds for pedestrian and bike infrastructure.

In New York, the effects would be especially dire. Statewide, the total cuts would inch up to 37 percent, according to calculations by the Democrat-controlled Senate Banking Committee (thanks to Ya-Ting Liu at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign for compiling these numbers).

While nationwide, Mica would maintain the 80/20 split between highway and transit spending, New York and its neighbors flex some of their highway dollars to support transit. In the tri-state region, cuts to federal “highway” spending translate into cuts to transit spending as well. Under the Mica proposal, federal highway spending in New York would fall by $568 million a year from current levels, while transit spending would be cut by $646 million. Those austerity levels would be locked in for six years.

At a time when the MTA is already facing a $10 billion deficit in its capital plan through 2014, those cuts could be devastating.

An MTA spokesperson told us that Mica’s plan, which is only an outline at this point, does not contain enough detail to assess the exact impact on the agency and transit riders. “While we support his efforts to promote efficiency, we are concerned about the level of funding that he intends to include in his legislation,” he continued.

New York representatives blasted the proposal. “We are extremely concerned about what a 34 percent cut would mean for all of New York’s needs,” a spokesperson for Rep. Jerry Nadler told Streetsblog. “This would be devastating when we’re already struggling to stay afloat with the resources already available.”

Nadler’s office also pointed out that Mica proposes increasing the share of transit funds that go to suburban and rural areas, as well as to the elderly, disabled and transit-dependent. Said Nadler’s spokesperson: “Given that the funding levels are cut, they can probably only accomplish this by taking money from the other transit programs that benefit urban areas like Rail Modernization. This is really bad for NYC/MTA and other cities with older subway systems (e.g. Boston, Chicago).”

Sen. Chuck Schumer responded to the Republican proposal over Twitter. “Rep Mica plan to cut infrastructure is job-killing, future-suffocating, pessimistic vision of US as ‘can’t do’ nation,” he wrote.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand focused on the economic impact of the Mica plan: “We all agree that we must reduce spending, but the House Republicans are determined to slash all the way to the bone and New York would disproportionally pay the price. Infrastructure investments are vital to New York and America’s economic future. But rather than invest in our future, this misguided House proposal would cut approximately 44,625 jobs in New York State alone, and more than 600,000 nationwide. New Yorkers and organizations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO agree that this proposal is the wrong direction.”