One of the great things about Signal Problems is a lot of very smart people read this newsletter and let me know when I get things wrong. I’m happy to admit when that’s the case and own it because, ultimately, the reason I do this is to help people understand what’s going on with the city’s transportation system.
In that spirit, I wanted to send a quick clarification to this morning’s edition.
I got some very fair push-back on my characterization this morning of the capital program and operating budgets as separate and distinct. When the capital program goes unfunded, the MTA borrows money to pay for it. Debt service accounts for an increasingly large share of the operating budget; 16 percent for 2019, which is how unfunded capital costs end up in the operating budget. So, over time, if congestion pricing revenue helps pay for capital projects, it will lower the MTA’s debt and therefore reduce operating budget pressures.
Further, the for-hire vehicle surcharge, which is, technically speaking, Phase One of congestion pricing as laid out by the FixNYC panel, will pay for about $300 million in Subway Action Plan-like improvements on an annual basis and $50 million per year in outer borough improvements, although the specifics of those are still being determined.
I don’t like when I miss key details. Today’s edition did that. I apologize.