Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) announced he is sponsoring a bill that would give county legislatures in Rockland, Dutchess, Orange and Putnam counties the power to withdraw from the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (A.2978). A recent study commissioned by Rockland County revealed a $40 million gap each year since 2005 between the services received from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and monies paid, sparking renewed calls for change, according to Zebrowski.
“For years, Rockland County has sent money to the MTA without getting a fair return,” Assemblyman Zebrowski said. “It has placed a fiscal burden squarely on the backs of working families and businesses that for the most part don’t even use the MTA system. This is a perfect example of a failed system that needs to be changed.”
Although four counties are included in the legislation, Rockland and Orange are the only counties in the 12-county Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District that have a value gap. The proposed law would give county legislatures the power to withdraw from the MTA system through a resolution. An agreement would also have to be reached with the transportation commissioner to lease the rail facilities and services in the county at fair market value.
“For years Rockland County has been overpaying the MTA,” Assemblyman Zebrowski said. “It’s well past time for a change. This bill would finally give our local governments the power to stop.”
Transportation consultants were hired by Rockland County to complete a study of the MTA system in 2010. They found that taxpayers only received 62 cents worth of service for every $1 paid to the MTA, mirroring the numbers from a similar study conducted in 2005. Together with the county planning department, several different options were devised to eliminate the value gap, including negotiations with the MTA for lower fees and additional services.
If a withdraw were completed, Rockland County would enter in to a contract with NJ Transit for its rail service at a cost of $17 million per year, and the county legislature would look into managing its own transit system in partnership with Orange County, Zebrowski noted. Any county that withdraws under the proposed law would have the full amount of the value gap compounded from the previous five years repaid by the MTA. For Rockland County, the return would be nearly $200 million.
“The money repaid by the MTA could help fund a new transit system that better fits our needs,” Assemblyman Zebrowski said. “Rockland County families have been held hostage by the various taxes, tolls and fares paid to the MTA for years. It is imperative that we are finally given a way to be released.”