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

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%)