Pols offer money solutions for MTA

(Credit: Urbanite)

By Marlene Naanes

With a month to go before the MTA board votes on a huge fare hike and draconian service cuts, elected officials are scrambling to give the agency money-generating ideas to stave off the drastic measures.

To help fill the transit agency’s expected $1.2 billion deficit next year, Comptroller William Thompson proposed yesterday creating a new vehicle registration fee to generate about $365 million in new funds for the MTA. City Council Members Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and David Yassky (D-Brooklyn) suggested the MTA could sell or lease some of its priciest or underused real estate.

“Instead of asking subway and bus riders who can least afford it to dig deeper into emptier pockets for less service, we need imaginative ideas that will ensure that those who benefit from a healthy transit system pay their fair share,” Thompson said at a news conference outside Grand Central Terminal.Thompson, who is running for mayor, proposed adding a weight-based vehicle registration fee that would raise $100 per vehicle weighing 2,300 pounds or less plus nine cents for every extra pound. He will submit his proposal today to the Ravitch Commission, a governor-appointed body charged with finding funding for the MTA. It will reveal its recommendations on Dec. 5.

Under the plan, a small vehicle such as a Toyota Yaro would cost $100 and a Lincoln Navigator would cost $430—in addition to an existing bi-yearly $30 vehicle use tax and a smaller weight-based state registration fee.

The annual fee would also be an incentive for people to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and could be coupled with a parking-zone regulation that only allows city-registered vehicles to park overnight, he said.

The comptroller’s office said a similar transit-funding registration fee exists in Seattle. Transit advocates commended the plan and urged the Ravitch Commission and lawmakers to approve it.

“The share that riders pay of the transit’s systems cost is going to go up from 69 percent which is the highest by far in the nation already to 83 percent, putting a hard burden on the riding public,” said Straphangers Campaign staff attorney Gene Russianoff. “It’s really a choice we can either pay a lot more for one of these to get a lot less service...or we can look to smart ways to come up with money to keep the system whole.”

Gioia and Yassky proposed yesterday that the MTA could use its properties more efficiently, noting that maintaining the agency’s Madison Avenue headquarters is an inefficient use of the public’s money. They suggested that the building could be leased for $1,047.40 per square foot, and should be sold or leased.

Gioia is running for public advocate, and Yassky is a candidate for comptroller.

Another property the MTA leases from the city at Jay Street in Brooklyn is largely vacant, the councilmen said. The councilmen also called on the MTA to release a report that they say details the value of all the agency’s real estate and suggests that it sell or lease some to plug budget gaps.

An MTA spokesman said revenue-generating opportunities with the agency’s real estate are limited because many facilities are run under lease and are not actually owned by the MTA. Of Thompson’s idea, the agency said: “We are working cooperatively with the Ravitch Commission … and appreciate the support of all elected officials who have proposed ideas for funding the transportation network.”

Tags: politics , mta , transit

advertisement | advertise on newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday