Report Transportation

How To Balance the MTA's Budget

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June 27, 2006

A defining feature of the New York regional economy is the concentration of employment in its central business district, the 8.5 square miles below 60th Street in Manhattan. With about 2 million jobs, this area is one of the largest and densest clusters of economic activity in the world. This unique amalgam of talent, and the associated benefits of agglomeration, makes New York vital, dynamic and attractive to a variety of firms.

The effective functioning of this central business district is critically dependent on an extensive and efficient transportation system. Of the 2 million people working there, relatively few live close enough to walk to work. The vast majority depend on some form of transportation. Of everyone entering the central business district on a typical weekday (for work and other reasons) about two-thirds come by mass transit and one-third by auto.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is by far the largest provider of transportation services in the region. Within New York City it operates an extensive subway system with 660 miles of track and 490 stations, a fleet of 4,483 buses and a separate railroad running 14 miles across Staten Island. Connecting Manhattan with the suburban counties are two commuter railroads, the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North, with a combined total of 1,369 miles of track and 244 stations, plus a fleet of 412 buses serving routes originating in the suburban counties.3 For those using autos, the agency operates tunnels connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn (the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel) and Queens (the Midtown Tunnel) and bridges joining Manhattan with the Bronx and Queens (the Triborough Bridge) and Manhattan with the Bronx (the Henry Hudson Bridge). In addition, it operates four other bridges that join boroughs other than Manhattan or areas within a borough.

The MTA transports the majority of those working in the central business district to their jobs. Of the 2.4 million people traveling to the hub each weekday by bus or subway, 86 percent use MTA facilities; the remainder rely primarily on services operated by New Jersey Transit or the Port Authority. The MTA’s bridges and tunnels account directly for about 9 percent of the personal vehicles entering the central business district on a weekday morning, with the others coming from New Jersey via Port Authority facilities or using the non-tolled bridges over the East River operated by the City of New York.

Providing these services is expensive.

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How to Balance the MTA's Budget