Hochul promises Brooklyn-Queens light rail, other major transit initiatives, but omits concrete plan to save cash-strapped MTA

Governor Kathy Hochul used her State of the State handle Tuesday to unveil a collection of coverage proposals associated to transit, together with advancing the Brooklyn-to-Queens Interborough Specific light rail venture — but stopped wanting committing new, devoted funding to the cash-strapped MTA.

Marquee transit objects within the governor’s 277-page State of the State book embrace permitting New York Metropolis to management its personal pace restrict, increasing the MTA’s $5 CityTicket for commuter rail journeys within the metropolis to all hours of the day, and enabling the state Division of Motor Autos to extra simply take reckless drivers off the highway.

As a part of her Housing Compact, the governor would require all municipalities with a prepare station to rezone areas inside a half-mile radius of the cease, aiming to spur transit-oriented improvement and soothe the state’s housing disaster. The governor additionally expects federal regulators to lastly log off on the state’s congestion pricing plan early this yr.

And a yr after first saying the Interborough Specific proposal, Hochul stated that she and the MTA would pursue constructing light rail on the underutilized freight rail tracks between Brooklyn and Queens that may rely as the most important enlargement of New York’s mass transit in many years.

“Moving forward with Light Rail for the Interborough Express means better access to jobs, education and economic opportunities for some 900,000 New Yorkers in Queens and Brooklyn,” stated MTA Chair Janno Lieber in an announcement. “I want to thank Governor Hochul for her leadership on this exciting project and look forward to working with stakeholders and local communities to move the proposed project forward.”

In a press launch, the governor’s workplace stated the light rail choice was chosen as a result of its rolling inventory can use the present railroad’s smaller proper of manner, in contrast to subway or commuter rail trains which require bigger tracks. Additionally they say it’s probably the most cost-efficient choice for the hall, although with a still-high whole value of round $5.5 billion, and additional argue it’s the quickest choice for the most individuals, with quick acceleration, quick dwell instances, and capability for up to 360 folks per prepare.

Governor Hochul delivers her 2023 State of the State handle.Darren McGee/Workplace of Governor Kathy Hochul

However the evident omission from Hochul’s speech to lawmakers was a plan to rescue the financially-challenged MTA, which is about to increase fares and reduce bills this yr as post-COVID ridership stagnates and federal assist runs dry.

Transit honchos have warned for months that the company is heading over a “fiscal cliff,” and final month handed a funds that, even after slicing prices and elevating fares, nonetheless requires billions of {dollars} over the following few years to stability its funds and pay the payments; the authority has repeatedly said that new, devoted streams of income are wanted from metropolis, state, and federal purses.

Hochul paid lip service to the MTA’s plight in her speech, deeming it “the lifeblood of the New York City metro region” and vaguely indicating plans to “invest in and ensure its long-term fiscal health.” Within the State of the State ebook, Hochul went additional in assuring straphangers that “long-term fiscal stability is essential to ensuring that New Yorkers can continue to rely on a world-class transportation system.” Final month, the governor and Mayor Eric Adams made new sources of funding for the MTA a plank of their “New New York” program.

But specifics for a way to get there have been missing, besides that Hochul and other leaders will work out the specifics later.

“Governor Hochul is committed to working with MTA leadership, legislative partners, the City of New York, the federal government, and other critical stakeholders on a comprehensive set of solutions to the structural challenges facing the MTA in order to put the Authority on sound fiscal footing for many years to come,” reads the ebook.

Regardless of the vagaries, Lieber stated in an announcement he appreciates the governor’s “vital” assist find new revenues.

“I very much appreciate Governor Hochul’s statement that the MTA is the lifeblood of the New York City region that’s got to be funded and supported to provide great service,” stated the chair. “What the MTA is facing is a fiscal crisis, brought on by the COVID pandemic, which cut ridership by a third and caused a multi-billion dollar hit. Reliable mass transit is key for millions of people for access to housing, jobs, education and healthcare and having the governor’s support is vital.”

The state funds is due April 1, and elsewhere in her speech, Hochul pledged not to increase earnings taxes this yr. That rankled progressive lawmakers, who’ve proposed rising taxes on New York’s wealthiest earners to, amongst other issues, plug the MTA’s deficit and enhance service.

“In her silence on addressing the MTA’s operating deficit, Governor Hochul leaves the possibility of fare hikes and service cuts on the table,” said Queens Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, the lead sponsor of the “Fix the MTA” package deal. “This will be the reality if she refuses to invest even the bare minimum in the MTA.”

MTA spokespersons didn’t return an inquiry for remark by press time.

With out a plan for fiscal well being put ahead, advocates took the chance to demand daring motion.

“Securing the future of the MTA — and the city and state that rely on it — demands a bold, positive vision from New York’s governor, who controls the system. Funding for more frequent subway and bus service in the governor’s upcoming executive budget will be essential to providing a sound fiscal footing for public transit,” stated Betsy Plum of the Riders Alliance, which has been selling a 6-minute subway service proposal.

“Transit riders from across the Bronx to central Brooklyn to Southeast Queens elected the governor last fall, turning out to put her over the top in a tight race,” Plum continued. “We’re going to fight for the shorter waits and faster trips we need and deserve and we won’t let up until Albany delivers the money to make it happen.”

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