transit is an essential service for working people.
The MTA is an essential service millions of New Yorkers rely on every single day. From subways and buses to commuter rails and Access-a-Ride, our public transportation system is the lifeblood of the state.
Working people rely on public transportation. It’s time to resolve the MTA’s debt crisis and fund transit like the essential service it is.
Democratizing Public Transportation
I believe public services should be under public control. The Governor, who runs the MTA, has too much power over our transit – including the power to take money from the MTA’s budget to pay for his or her own upstate pet projects.
With the way the system is currently set up, the Governor and the MTA Board can – and do – steal from this public service, and there is little we can do about it. The Governor appoints the Board, including its Chair. The Board has the power to set fares, decide on capital spending, and authorize or even stop critical repair and upgrade projects. Board members are unpaid and tend to come from wealthy backgrounds. Most are millionaires and very few are transit riders. This set up has led to disastrous decisions for riders who have few options to fighting back – or even know what goes on.
I support the creation of an MTA-specific subcommittee in the Legislature to run regular oversight hearings to hold the Governor and the Board accountable. I will also empower the board to nominate its own Chair so the Governor can’t use the position as her political pawn.
The MTA Board itself must also be democratized to reflect the the will of the people. I would support legislation that would direct the Board of Elections to create new MTA Governance election districts to create a direct line of accountability to voters. Elected board seats need to be paid positions to make them accessible to working-class people.
Street and Pedestrian Safety
In the last 5 years, Assembly District 65 has seen more than 14,000 traffic crashes. 3,000 of these resulted in injury or death, mostly to pedestrians. While there is no one solution to traffic violence, one thing is clear: our current system is not working.
I fully support the campaign to #FixCanal and will use my office to fight for it and iterative, vital safety, accessibility, and sustainability improvements on a timeline that’s measured in days and not years.
Speed limits and enforcement for blocking bus lanes and bus stops are rules set by the state, not by New York City. But community boards, local organizations and regular people are the real experts on traffic conditions in their own neighborhoods – locals know which of their streets are dangerous, and which of their buses get stuck behind double-parked cars. We should not have to lobby the Governor or state Legislature to get the kinds of traffic rules we need for reliable buses and safe streets.
That’s why I support legislation to delegate authority over speed limits and all cameras to every city, town and village’s Department of Transportation that requests it.
Money from traffic enforcement should be spent on public transit, not police. All fines coming from stationary cameras around bus lanes need to be “lockboxed” as operating revenue for the MTA instead of going to more enforcement and an already bloated police budget.
clean air & clean transportation
Making public transit, walking, and biking reliable, accessible, and safe are key parts of the transition to a green future that also makes daily life better. Our district is a critical entry point for active transport and transit with the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. I will fight for a massive expansion of accessibility, pedestrianization, and protected bike lanes from our bridges and across the district.
Since 2017, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has doled over $80 million dollars of utility ratepayer money to electric car companies like Tesla, BMW, and Porsche through its Drive Clean rebate program. I support the Ride Clean Rebate which would expand this program to give any New Yorker an immediate 50% discount on the purchase of any electric bicycle (eBike) or scooter.
tax the rich to Resolve the Debt Crisis and fully Fund the MTA
The MTA pays for most of its big projects, like signal upgrades and elevator additions, through taking on debt. This debt is backed by fares, and the bonds must be paid back with interest. The MTA’s outstanding debt stands at about $3 billion, and with ridership still not back to pre-pandemic levels, this debt is mounting. About 35% of every fare goes to paying back interest rather than toward maintenance and service.
Public transportation demands the same sort of state investments as other public services like schools. The MTA should not have to choose between the rights of its riders and other key priorities like modernizing signals and maintaining the system, or paying back debt.
Moving forward with higher state investment also makes good economic sense for New York’s families. For each $1 billion of capital investment, the state could see $3 billion in economic output, $1 billion in labor income, $266 million in tax revenue, and 15,900 jobs.
Crucially, all new and existing MTA funds should be “lockboxed” – meaning, no one in the government can raid them for non-MTA uses. For too long, politicians have played political football with this essential service, using MTA money to pay for their own pet projects or kickbacks. The Metropolitan Mass Transportation Operating Assistance (MMTOA) fund, for example, is a large source of MTA money. Despite its name, its funds are able to be appropriated by the state for non-transit uses and to fill budget holes. The state should be funding transportation, not the other way around.
We can do this by taxing the rich’s most treasured assets: fossil fuels, real estate, and stocks.
We can add $65M to the MTA through ending fossil fuel subsidies. Liquid petroleum and compressed natural gas, kerosene, and even jet fuel are exempt from the Petroleum Business Tax which in part funds the MMTOA. There is no reason to subsidize airlines instead of transit.
The MTA is a beneficiary of two taxes applied to commercial property transactions in New York City worth over $500,000, together known as the Urban Tax. The Real Property Transfer Tax is a 1% tax on property value, and the Mortgage Recording Tax is a 0.625% tax on the recorded mortgage. High-end and commercial property owners often do not take out mortgages, allowing them to skirt the MRT.
The Urban Taxes can be modified to help New Yorkers in three ways:
- First, we must fold the mortgage tax into the transfer tax to capture more revenues from the real estate moguls who don’t take mortgages yet benefit most from big real estate deals.
- The tax must be progressive, not flat. The biggest real estate barons should be paying the most into the public sector.
- Finally, we need to expand the Urban Tax to the entire 12-county metropolitan commuter transportation district, not just New York City.
With all this new revenue freed up from political posturing, I will legislate an earmarked funding stream of at least $500M annually to make the MTA fully accessible by 2034, including commuter rail and new projects after that.
This money can come from raising existing taxes on stock, bond, and derivatives transfers, which on its own could generate billions for New Yorkers.