It’s easy to get annoyed with the MTA: Your train is slow and crowded, the station is dirty, the bus is late — and to top it off, you just got hit with another fare hike. You’re paying more for deteriorating service, and the only place to direct your anger is a faceless bureaucracy known as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Is there anyone responsible for this mess?
Actually, yes. Governor Andrew Cuomo appoints the authority’s leadership and he calls the shots in Albany when it comes to figuring out the MTA’s finances.
So far, the governor’s reaction to his agency’s escalating debt and declining service quality has been little more than a shrug.
In his first term, Cuomo worked with suburban legislators to hack away at one of the MTA’s most important dedicated funding sources, then looted the authority’s budget while denying it was a raid. More recently, he said the authority’s five-year investment plan was “bloated,” and his latest budget actually cuts the state’s contribution to the MTA’s capital program.
When there’s an opportunity to cut tolls before an election or announce post-Sandy recovery initiatives, the governor makes sure the press release comes straight from his office, and he’ll never miss the photo-op.
But when the fare rises or it’s time to keep the system in good working condition? Then the MTA is someone else’s problem.
Cuomo has twice gone out his way to dismiss the plan to reduce the threat of future fare hikes by reforming the region’s dysfunctional toll system. Although former congestion pricing opponents have come around to support the plan, the governor insists that the political reality hasn’t changed since 2008.