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New York City shoulders unfair share of MTA burden, Stringer says

J train passengers enter the Jamaica Avenue &

J train passengers enter the Jamaica Avenue & 111th Street subway station in Richmond Hill, Queens, Thursday, March 19, 2015. Credit: Charles Eckert

New York City residents and businesses pay an "invisible fare" to the MTA in taxes, subsidies and direct city government spending that amounts to a disproportionate burden when compared with the state share of the agency's budget, according to a report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The city's $4.8 billion contribution in fiscal year 2014 is eight times larger than the $603.5 million from the state, Stringer said. It came on top of the $5.3 billion city commuters paid in fares and tolls, he said.

"The MTA may be a creature of the state, but the weight of running our transit network falls squarely on the shoulders of working New Yorkers and businesses," the comptroller said in a call with reporters Tuesday.

Stringer said the "invisible fare" is the equivalent of $130 monthly per household before MetroCard or toll expenses.

The money came from such taxes and fees as the 50-cent per-ride taxi surcharge, businesses' MTA payroll tax and the cost of NYPD patrols of mass transit, Stringer said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in a statement, accused Stringer of using "fuzzy math" and of trying "to justify letting the city off the hook for using some of its billions in future surpluses to pay its fair share for mass transit."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did not respond to a request for comment.

Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in a statement the report "underscores a fundamental reality: New York City and its taxpayers have disproportionately subsidized the MTA, particularly after years of declining state investment."

De Blasio may discuss the MTA's capital shortfall among other items when he visits state lawmakers in Albany Wednesday.

Bill Henderson, executive director at the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, said Stringer's state-to-city comparison may be "a little bit apples and oranges," considering MTA spending on subways and buses is three times what it spends on commuter rail operations. But he added, "Nobody's going to disagree that the MTA could use more support from the state."

The New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign, which advocates on behalf of riders, agreed with Stringer that the state contribution to the MTA's operating budget is "inadequate."

Stringer's report also found fares and subsidies from the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District counties -- including the city, Nassau and Suffolk and northern suburban counties -- paid for 23 percent of the MTA's budget even though riders from those areas account for just 21 percent of the expenses.

Stringer said the city and the suburbs are propping up the MTA. "The transit system is dirty, the transit system is underfunded," he said. "It's starting to show the same things it showed back in the '70s when I was growing up and the A train was a rolling crime scene."


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