Testimony to MTA Board
Re: MTA Needs New State Dedicated, Lockboxed Revenues;
McKinsey Ridership Projections and Capital Plan Amendment Should be Released as Open Data
Good morning. I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable New York government, including for authorities like the MTA.
COVID-19 is an ongoing financial disaster for the MTA. It is shockingly clear from the July 2022 financial plan that the MTA will need a large new stream of dedicated and lockboxed operating revenues because ridership will not rebound to 2019 levels for many years. The MTA’s past goal of having fares and tolls provide 40% of its operating budget has become impossible.
Because the State owns the MTA, the Governor and Legislature must again find new funding so the MTA can provide the level of service New York must have to recover from the economic ravages of COVID.
The best way the state can do so is with new dedicated, lockboxed revenue that goes directly to the MTA – eliminating the opportunity for raids by future Governors. This is how many of the newer MTA dedicated funds are set up like congestion pricing, the for-hire vehicle fee and the payroll mobility tax. There are many possible sources, as shown by PCAC in their “Do the Math” funding tool, and it is important that revenues be ongoing, not one-shot gap closers.
Further, congestion pricing must remain dedicated to the MTA capital plan, and not used for operating expenses. Congestion pricing is exactly the type of environmentally and fiscally responsible revenue source the MTA needs to fund its capital plan. The MTA is counting on congestion pricing to provide $15B of the $55B 2020-2024 plan – by far the largest single source of funding. Also because of COVID, the 2020 capital plan has been off to a historically slow start, as we documented in our June 2022 report, “Double Jeopardy.”
We look forward to seeing the updated ridership projections today, and we are encouraged that the MTA’s open data catalog includes this information as a dataset to be published in the third quarter of 2022. We ask the MTA to publish the fullMcKinsey analysis with information about the assumptions used, as requested by Board members at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting. This data will be a valuable tool for the public, journalists, and policymakers, and should be released because it was paid for by taxpayers and MTA riders through their fares.
Lastly, the capital plan amendment released for the 2020-2024 capital plan should be published as open data. We appreciate that the MTA released this amendment with full documentation – unlike the truncated “letter amendment” which did not show changes by project in December 2021. We ask you to fulfill your pledge for greater public transparency and publish the tabular data in the amendment in an open data format so the public can more easily track changes.
Thank you for your consideration.