In a letter to the MTA Board, budget and transit watchdogs Reinvent Albany, Citizens Budget Commission, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, TransitCenter and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign called on the MTA to identify exactly how it will fund increasing the MTA police force by 581 police officers without increasing the operating deficit at a time when it is increasing and large short-falls are projected in future years.
The groups are concerned that almost doubling the size of the MTA police force will reduce the MTA’s ability to maintain a high level of transit service. The MTA’s budget woes have already led to changes in bus service and reductions in subway cleaning staff. Without new funding or major savings in other areas, the proposed increase in the MTA police force will significantly increase the MTA’s operating deficit.
According to the Citizens Budget Commission, increasing the size of the MTA police force with 500 new officers and 81 supervisors, 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. The $40m in one-time funding from the Manhattan DA announced in July will only cover a fraction of this cost, and will also be used for station improvements.
The MTA currently has 783 MTA officers patrolling commuter rail, bridges and tunnels and 2,500 NYPD officers assigned to patrol subway and buses and. 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 maximize the effectiveness of existing policing.