The Capital Program

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In 1981, after years of disinvestment that led to the deterioration of the subway and commuter rail system, MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch urged New York City and State elected officials to take action to combat the decline. In response, the New York State legislature passed the Transportation System Assistance and Financing Act of 1981, authorizing the MTA to issue bonds for needed capital funding. In 1982, the first five-year Capital Program was approved, allowing the MTA for the first time to create a long term vision for the system.

Since 1982, the five-year Capital Program has been the bedrock for the MTA’s ability to plan and contract the work to repair and expand the system for the riders. The success of the program becomes especially apparent in years when funding has been threatened. In these years the amount of work that can be accomplished is reduced and the MTA is forced to use resources and funding less efficiently.In order to establish a long term guide for the Capital Program, the MTA prepares a 20-year Needs Assessment , which is a comprehensive look at what needs repair, what projects are required to address those needs, and locational changes in population. This broad information is then fed into the proposed a 5-year Capital Plan and submitted for approval to Albany’s Capital Program Review Board (CPRB). The four members of this board are all appointed by the governor.

NYU/Wagner’s Rudin Center for Transportation produced a thorough history of the MTA Capital Program that can be found here: From Rescue to Renaissance: The Achievements of the MTA Capital Program 1982 – 2004.

Capital Program Today

The Capital Program pays for repairing signaling, track, and communication systems as well as purchasing new equipment like subway and rail cars as well as buses. In addition to ongoing maintenance, which comprises about 80% of recent capital programs, the MTA also invests in expanding the system. There are currently five expansion projects:

  • 2nd Ave Subway (1st Phase)
  • Fulton Center (Completed Nov, 2014)
  • East Side Access
  • 7 Line Extension (Late 2015)
  • New Select Bus Services

Where the Capital Program Funding Has Come From

Throughout the history of the Capital Program, funding has come primarily from Federal grants, NY State grants, NY State bonds, and NY City grants, but the amounts of each of these categories has varied greatly.

In 2012, the PCAC produced a report titled, The Road Back: a Historic Review of the MTA Capital Program, which outlines the financial history of the Capital Program.

Where the 2010-2014 Capital Program Funding Came From

In the $23.81 billion 2010-2014 Capital Program, the funding sources included:

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The 2015-2019 Capital Program

The Proposed $32 billion 2015-2019 Capital Program contains a funding plan that still has a gap of $14 billion. To meet the challenge of the large funding gap, new options such as new dedicated revenue sources, private funds or in-kind contributions, additional appropriations from state, federal, and local governmental funding partners, or new MTA debt are being explored.

The dearth of public funding for the 2015-2019 Capital Program has also led to new solutions such as MoveNY. The MoveNY plan includes cordon pricing and a reconfiguration of bridge tolling throughout the region to make the City’s tolling system more equitable.

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