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MTA needs bigger subsidy to fill capital budget hole, transit advocates say

Transit advocates Tuesday called on New York City elected leaders to significantly step up funding for the MTA, saying the $125 million a year it recently promised is not nearly enough considering what the city gets in return.

Speaking at the steps of City Hall, the consortium of transit and civic groups, including the Empire State Transportation Alliance, Straphangers Campaign, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign, chided city leaders for doing less to help fill the $14 billion funding gap in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's proposed $32 billion proposed Capital Program than any other stakeholder, including the state and federal governments and the business community.

The call came a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announced it would increase the city's annual subsidy to the MTA's capital budget to $125 million, up from about $100 million. The advocates said even the increased amount was paltry considering the fast-rising numbers of subway riders and length of delays.

"To me, the city's contributions to the MTA are reminiscent of the nickel fare" in 1904, Straphangers Campaign spokesman Gene Russianoff said. "The system costs a lot ..."

The advocates did not specify a sum of money they'd like to see the city contribute to the MTA, but noted that if the city's annual contribution just kept up with inflation over the last 30 years, it would be up to $363 million.

De Blasio spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick in a statement Tuesday said the city's increased contribution represents the largest amount of MTA capital support from the city since 2000, and also meets the MTA's request last year for $657 million over five years.

However, the MTA earlier this week increased the size of its request to $300 million annually, and also a $1 billion contribution to the ongoing Second Avenue Subway project.

"As the mayor has repeatedly said, we are committed to working with the state and our regional partners to find a long-term plan for the vital state authority," Spitalnick said.

The MTA's Capital Program aims to fund infrastructure maintenance, expansion and improvement projects, such as the East Side Access plan to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal, through 2019. Advocates have forwarded various plans to generate new revenue to pay for the program, including by adding tolls to currently free East River crossings and in Manhattan, while reducing tolls at other locations.

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