Letter to the Editor: MTA’s Poor Fiscal Management Behind Much of its Financial Woes

Something was missing from the announcement from MTA Chairman Pat Foye and Metro-North President Catherine Renaldi that installation of Positive Train Control was based upon the most recent project recovery schedule and will meet the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) deadline of Dec. 31. What they conveniently left out was the FRA’s original required completion date of Dec. 31, 2015, and financing for Positive Train Control.

The MTA paid for Positive Train Control on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North by a $967.1 million Railroad Rehabilitation Improvement Financing loan from the FRA. It is a 22-year loan at a 2.4 percent interest rate. The loan will have to be paid back, plus interest, as part of the current $51 billion 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Program and following four future capital programs.  

One contributing factor to the current MTA financial crises is the agency’s dependency on long-term borrowing. Annual debt service payments have grown to more than 20 percent of agency expenditures. Audits anticipate this will grow to a larger percentage in coming years. 

The old-fashioned pay-as-you-go concept disappeared decades ago leaving commuters and taxpayers stuck with the bills.

Larry Penner
Great Neck, N.Y.

The letter writer is a retired transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Roads, NYC Transit and MTA Bus along with 30 other transit agencies in New York and New Jersey.