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December 15, 2002

Starving MTA of Public Funds

For all the ire of NYC subway riders being aimed at the transit union for possibly driving greater fare hikes due to labor costs, what is remarkable is how low fares are given the low public funding of the NYC transit system.

Fares alone pay for 55% of operating costs and, if you ignore the more heavily subsidize bus system, riders actually pay 88% of subway costs-- a remarkable number given that residents of Boston pay only 31% of the costs of their mass transit system through fares.

Our nation subsidizes rural highways, subsidizes airports, subsidizes long-haul railroads-- but NYC subways have to be paid for by the working class families who ride them, despite the environmental gains from a city that avoids putting millions of cars on the road as Los Angeles or other car-driven cities do.

Why do we subsidize air quality disasters like the LA highway system, while underfunding NYC transit? We know the answer and it's the same reason we don't have real fuel efficiency standards for cars and why our Middle East policy is so screwed up. But in a country talking about energy independence, why is one of the most successful systems of mass transit so neglected by state and federal funders?

Posted by Nathan at December 15, 2002 06:43 AM

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Your last paragraph nails the argument for me. I also do not understand why anyone from New York City could vote for George Pataki. He has starved the city of revenue (witness the end of the commuter tax) and has diverted state transit revenue to the suburbs.

Posted by: Randy Paul at December 15, 2002 11:51 AM

Probably the usual - "he's not a tax-and-spend liberal", or some other equivalent.

Posted by: Barry at December 15, 2002 02:26 PM

As somebody that has lived in the Northeast all my life, I have always resented the reputation that my region has as a drain for federal spending. Meanwhile, farm subsidies increase by the billions to help large conglomerate farmers that have driven competition out. Let me add the Amtrak fiasco where the government threatens to shut down the system or privitize it despite the fact the Northeast Corridor (New York, Philadelphia, Washington wing) is profitable (yes, believe it or not). Meanwhile cross country lines, that stretch through Texas, Nevada, New Mexico drive Amtrak into ground.
On a side note: I thank you for your efforts to support the Transit Union. You are indeed a rare advocate for the working man!

Posted by: Tim Gray at December 15, 2002 09:00 PM

One of the many times Newt Gingrich had his head handed to him was by a Republican, former owner Giuliani.

Gingrich had made disparaging remarks about New York City and Federal Government subsidies. Giuliani, reminded Gingrich that NYC gives a lot more to the Federal treasury than it receives, unlike Gingrich's own Cobb County, GA.

Tim, one reason why Amtrak has such problems outside the Northeast Corridor is because it doesn't own the track in the rest of its route system and thus must depend on the rail lines whose owners give priority to their freight carriers.

Posted by: Randy Paul at December 15, 2002 11:01 PM

That should have said former Mayor Giuliani.

Posted by: Randy Paul at December 15, 2002 11:34 PM

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