NY MTA: Suburban Passengers Get $7 Subsidy Per Ride, Subway Riders, A Buck

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 07:16 PM

Tax subsidy per average ride.

LISTEN: Get more details in this conversation as WNYC's Richard Hake speaks to MTA head Joe Lhota.


NY's MTA Chief said his agency contributes more than $7 to each Long Island Railroad passenger's ride, compared to just over a dollar per subway ride.

Joe Lhota came out swinging Thursday in defense of the payroll mobility tax struck down by a state court Wednesday. (Full ruling)

Lhota held a press conference in Grand Central Terminal to call the ruling "flawed and erroneous." He showed up armed with some figures.

Suburban rides on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad receive a bigger subsidy per ride, than NYC subway rides.

The tax funds $1.8 billion of the MTA budget, about 15 percent. The tax is levied in 12 counties where the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates subways, buses, bridges, or commuter rail. It is a constant political football for suburban districts around New York City who feel they are paying for the city's subway.

Here are the subsidies for the average ride for each of the three rail networks operated by the MTA.

LIRR: $7.34
Metro-North: $4.26
Subway: $1.11

Now, there are billions of rides taken on the subway and only about 80 million on LIRR (and we're tracking down the additional figures to flush out this kind of comparison) but Lhota's point is that the subsidy isn't exactly a suburbs-to-city stream of tax money. The biggest winners are the riders of Long Island Rail Road, coincidentally, exactly the people who vote for Nassau County (aka Long Island) Executive, Ed Mangano, the man who filed the lawsuit challenging the mobility tax.

Here's a primer on the mobility tax and four other fees that could also be overturned if the court ruling stands courtesy of the MTA:

Fees and Taxes affected by the ruling according to the MTA:

  • Vehicle Registration Fee – Vehicle registrants residing in the 12-county district pay an additional $50 to register a car for each 2-year period.
  • Taxi Surcharge – A 50¢ surcharge on all medallion taxi (yellow cab) trips that begin within New York City and end within the 12-county MTA service territory.
  • Automobile Rental Tax – Automobile rental charges within the 12-county MTA region incur an additional tax of 5%.
  • Auto License Fee – $2/year for each driver's license. So most people pay an additional $16 fee at the time of their renewal.

And here's how the MTA explains the payroll tax collection:

As for the Payroll Mobility Tax itself it is paid by employers and self-employed individuals earning more than $50,000/year located within the MTA’s 12-county region at rates ranging from 0.11%, or 11¢ for every $100 paid to employees, to 0.34%.On December 12, 2011, Governor Cuomo signed legislation revising the Mobility Tax structure by exempting or reducing some categories of taxpayers who had been paying the 0.34% rate, as follows:

  • Self-employed individuals earning less than $50,000 per year (Exempt)
  • Businesses w/ annual payroll between $10,000 and $1.25 million (Exempt)
  • Public and private elementary and secondary schools (Exempt)
  • Businesses w/annual payroll = $1.25 million -$1.5 million (0.11%)
  • Businesses w/annual payrolls = $1.5 million and $1.75 million (0.23%)



Comments [6]


Here on LI we have basically two approaches for commuting from LI - car and train. Yet we are surrounded by water, and for those who live in Nassau, the commute on a high speed ferry would be one half hour or about twice as fast as the RR and three times faster than driving. Cuomo likes it, the Feds like it, NYDOT wants to do it, it is only Mangano, and Kaiman the town supervisor who are stopping it. And, the fare would cost less than LIRR! WHy? because we are not paying for conductors making $200k a year, or paying for all the screw ups LIRR has made in the last 20 years. And no track to take care of!

Dec. 05 2012 10:44 AM
J. Tay

The subsidy numbers are flawed since they divide State/Local funds by number of rides instead of by passenger. LIRR has less rides per week but NASSAU/SUFFOLK customers also PAY $13 each way (peak)! NYC customers complaining abt $2.25 per ride are ridiculous.

Oct. 09 2012 09:33 PM

If Nassau and Suffolk don't want to pay for LIRR service, the MTA ought to make drastic cuts on the LIRR. I hope they don't subsidize the inefficiency of the LIRR with other parts of the system. MNR is also a commuter rail but survives with much less subsidies. Maybe Nassau and Suffolk could learn a few things from the other Suburban NY and CT counties.

Aug. 31 2012 12:22 PM

Without the LIRR - Long Island would choke. Talk about "penny-wise and pound foolish".

Aug. 30 2012 08:34 AM

To start with, the subway is a true cattle car system; when you are wall to wall in a subway car, the per person cost of the ride is amazingly low. Second, most subway rides are a few miles, maybe several, and some longer. Rides on MN and LIRR are far longer. I can't speak for MN, but LIRR is a mass of inefficiency, waste, excess layers of mismanagement, a huge money sinkhole. Everything they do wastes money and turns out badly. They spent a fortune putting in new, lightning resistant control systems at Jamaica; first storm first some blew, then LIRR idiots destroyed the rest. LIRR trains move so slowly (PJ line averages maybe 30 mph) that they need a lot more equipment, but what equipment they have is so badly designed , built and maintained it constantly breaks down, especially the politician designed diesels and dual modes.

I forgot to mention; the fares on LIRR are obscenely high. So are the pensions, benefits and pay. For instance, if a train engineer works an M7 train part of the day, a passenger diesel or DM part of the day, and a 'freight' part of the day - they get paid for 3 days work for just one day. And pensions are boosted by senior workers who work heavy overtime, taking in more money in their pensions then most people get for high paying jobs. I'm not anti union, just anti abuse and waste - and LIRR is full of both!

Aug. 29 2012 02:31 PM

Shut off the railroads and let 'em carpool.

Aug. 24 2012 10:54 AM

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