Needed: Proposals to Fix New York’s Crumbling Subways

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Bianca Bagnarelli

There is finally some good news for New York commuters in this summer of hell: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Albany lawmakers are at last talking about how to pay for vital improvements to the city’s crumbling subways.

On Monday, the mayor said he wanted to raise taxes on the richest New Yorkers and use the money to upgrade the signaling system, buy new subway cars and give half-price MetroCards to the poor. The governor and the State Senate majority leader, John Flanagan, quickly rejected the idea, saying the Legislature would never go for it. They floated various half-measures of their own, including — predictably — telling the mayor to use some of the city’s budget surplus to cut a check to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which Mr. Cuomo controls, as well as increasing surcharges on taxis and other for-hire cars.

This might not sound like progress, but at least New York politicians are publicly tossing around ideas.

Let’s start with the details of Mr. de Blasio’s plan. It would raise about $700 million a year by increasing marginal tax rates on individuals who earn more than $500,000 and couples who make more than $1 million. In addition to paying for physical improvements to the subways, it would address a growing problem by making mass transit more affordable for the city’s poorest residents. And it would raise taxes modestly on 32,000 affluent people who can clearly afford to pay more — a single person earning $1 million annually would pay $2,700 more a year in taxes, or about $7 a day, according to the mayor’s office. The mayor, who is up for re-election in November, proposed a similar tax during his 2013 campaign to fund a universal prekindergarten program.

That said, there are other proposals out there, among them the Move NY Fair Plan, which would raise $1.35 billion a year through bridge tolls, congestion pricing and a per-mile surcharge on taxi rides. The obvious advantages are that it would cut traffic and greenhouse gas emissions in addition to helping pay for mass transit improvements. The plan would also include money to finish the Second Avenue subway and build lines to transit-starved neighborhoods.

What is needed now is a substantive debate in the Legislature about these and other proposals. If Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Flanagan don’t like Mr. de…

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