Testimony to MTA Finance Committee on Increasing Police Force

Testimony of Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany
Before MTA Finance Committee
Re: MTA must show how it will fund increasing the size of the MTA police force by 581 officers

October 21, 2019

Good afternoon. I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable state government, including state authorities like the MTA.

I am here to draw your attention to a letter sent to the MTA Board by budget and transit watchdogs Reinvent Albany, Citizens Budget Commission, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, TransitCenter and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which called on the MTA to identify exactly how it will fund increasing the size of the MTA police force by 581 officers without increasing its growing operating deficit.

Our groups are concerned that increasing spending on MTA police will reduce the MTA’s ability to maintain a high level of transit service. This is the MTA’s core responsibility, and its budget woes have already led to changes in bus service and reductions in subway cleaning staff, with more cuts likely in the months ahead as the 2020 budget is finalized.

According to the Citizens Budget Commission, increasing the size of the MTA police force with 500 new officers and 81 supervisors for the new hires will cost $56.1 million in year one and $119.9 million in year ten. Over the 2020-2023 financial plan, the new officers will cost $260 million and push MTA’s projected operating budget deficit of $740 million to $1 billion. One-time funding from the Manhattan DA announced in July of $40 million over four years is directed to fare evasion technology and station improvements and will only cover a fraction of this cost.

The MTA currently has 783 MTA officers patrolling commuter rail, bridges and tunnels. An additional 2,500 NYPD officers are assigned to patrol the subway and buses.

Reinvent Albany would note that peer transit systems like Transport for London deploy far fewer police over their transit networks. According to Transport for London (TfL), they deploy 860 officers for the Tube and commuter rail, and 1,525 officers for streets, who cover buses as well as other traffic issues, for a total of 2,300 over the whole TfL network. The proposal to add 581 officers would bring NYC up to 3,800 over the whole MTA system.

Comparisons are often made regarding policing between London and NYC given a roughly equivalent overall policing numbers, and population. NYC has seen crime plummet due over the last several decades under the current structure, leading Reinvent Albany to question whether spending scarce transit operating dollars almost doubling the size of the MTA police force is necessary. Before spending scarce transit operating dollars that almost doubles the size of the MTA police force, the MTA should work with the NYPD and its own officers to establish clear goals and expectations and improve the effectiveness of existing policing.

Thank you for your consideration.