Statement of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA
Before the MTA Board
December 19, 2012
The PCAC cannot support this budget and the proposed fare increases contained in it. We believe that the financial path that the MTA is traveling is not sustainable. The proposed financial plan relies too heavily on riders and not enough on others who benefit from the MTA system, without which our region could not function. This steady series of fare increases bearing no relationship to inflation or increases in incomes threatens to shift the burden of supporting the system ever more greatly onto riders, who already pay a higher proportion of operating costs than the riders in any large city in the nation.
But beyond the immediate impact on the rider, we are concerned about the long term sustainability of funding that supports the MTA. Even discounting the impacts of Sandy and the need to prepare the system for future storms, this system has huge future capital investment needs with no obvious means to pay for them. Adding to the MTA’s $32 billion debt, with annual debt service costs approaching $2.8 billion by 2016 is not a viable option. There must be a wide ranging discussion among all stakeholders, including riders, the MTA, and its governmental funding partners. We must have stable and reliable funding that can grow to meet financial needs. We must ensure that riders, who have met their obligations, appropriately share financial responsibility for the MTA with all of those who benefit from the MTA system. And we must wean the Capital Program from its extreme reliance on fare backed bonds, which are the gift that keeps on giving as they add 30 years of debt service to the operating budget.
We recognize that this Board has few immediate options. You are required to produce and approve a self-sustaining budget, and given these constraints the choices reflected in Chairman Lhota’s fare recommendations strike an appropriate balance between single fare purchasers, per-ride MetroCard buyers, and time-based MetroCard holders and impose similar increases on commuter rail riders. But these constraints are what makes the path we are on unacceptable, and all of us, including the members of this Board, must strive to change course.