New York City’s beleaguered transit system may be about to get a lot worse.
Last week, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) warned that it would be forced to drastically cut service to deal with a looming budget crisis — with a significant fare increase also on the cards. Commuters, sick of endless delays and overcrowding have turned elsewhere, apparently resulting in fewer of them using public transit, decreasing MTA’s revenue and affecting service even more.
According to MTA officials, expected revenue for the next five years has dropped by nearly half a billion dollars since July.
On Tuesday, Benjamin Kabak, a transit expert who runs the website Second Avenue Sagas, told the Guardian the move was akin to a “death spiral.”
“The subway service and the bus service has become unreliable enough for people to stop using it,” Kabak said. “If people aren’t using it, there’s less money, and they have to keep raising fares without delivering better service.”
It has been estimated that a total renovation of New York’s decrepit subway system could cost upwards of $100 billion and potentially result in a rash of changes, including shutting trains down between midnight and 5 a.m.
The need for renovation was further highlighted after Amazon announced part of its new headquarters would be located in Queens, which would bring an estimated influx of 25,000 new workers, further straining the subway system.
Officials, however, insist the city can cope. “This is obviously part of the reason — a large reason I would suggest — why Amazon was attracted to Long Island City,” Andy Byford, head of the New York City subway told reporters earlier in November. “It already has a rich transport-transit offer.”
In order to lure Amazon to New York City, the state and local governments are offering the company nearly $3 billion in grants, tax breaks and tax credits. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) insist that the city will recoup the money.
— Deepa Seetharaman (@dseetharaman) November 20, 2018
“The extreme conservatives and the socialists both now vehemently oppose ‘incentives’ for Amazon, which is one of the most profitable companies in the country,” Cuomo wrote in an op-ed Monday. “We give Amazon nothing and their revenues give us approximately $900 million annually.”
Cuomo’s “extreme conservatives and the socialists” claim is misleading. Both sides of the political spectrum have questioned why New York invested billions of dollars to lure in Amazon, but have done nothing for the more immediately pressing problem of the aging subway system. The New York Post has also noted that property taxes collected from Amazon for the city’s “Infrastructure Fund” won’t be retrieved until 11 years into the 15-year lease, further angering city residents.
Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been a vehement critic of the deal. “Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” she tweeted earlier in November. “The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”
In a bizarre moment last Tuesday, Fox New’s Tucker Carlson actually voiced approval of Cortez’s stance. “Hate to admit it, but Ocasio-Cortez has a very good point here,” Carlson said. “That’s the only time I’ve ever agreed with Ocasio-Cortez.”