A New York state comptroller’s audit of the Metropolitan Transit Authority has revealed the agency has around $1.9 billion in unanticipated funds. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the financial stability of the MTA is stronger than they expected it would be seven months ago.
“The good news is that the MTA is in better shape than it’s been in a period of time,” DiNapoli said in an interview to CBS News. “They’ve identified $1.9 billion in unanticipated resources that will be available over the course of the financial plan.”
According to DiNapoli the $1.9 billion is a result of lower pension contributions, energy costs, debt services, health insurance costs, and higher tax revenues. He suggests the MTA use these newly found funds for improving service and maintenance, reduce projected budget gaps, and help fund their next capital program. He also says they should shrink the planned 15% fare hike over the next three years.
“We’re suggesting to consider reexamining the scheduled increases in fares in tolls,” DiNapoli said. “When you look at how those increases have been implemented, it has exceeded the rate of inflation. We certainly know how hard-pressed riders are that use the MTA facilities, so with an improved outlook, perhaps it’s time to reconsider those fare and toll increases that are scheduled.”
The comptroller audit also revealed that tolls have risen faster than inflation over the past six years. Since 2007, the cost of a 30-day MetroCard rose 47%. Fares on railroads increased 32%, and E-Z Pass tolls on major bridges and tunnels rose by 33%. The MTA plans to raise fares and tolls by 7.5% in 2015, and another 7.5% in 2017. This is twice the projected inflation rate.
“The MTA’s financial outlook is much improved. While funding the next capital program and improving services are critically important, reducing the size of planned fare and toll hikes must also be considered,” DiNapoli said. “There is plenty of time before the next scheduled fare increase for the MTA to refocus its efforts on reducing waste, which could go a long way toward easing the financial burden on commuters.”