State comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office has some numbers that shadow the MTA’s future.

On the five-year, $26.3 billion capital plan, DiNapoli notes:

The MTA has … proposed borrowing $14.8 billion–the largest amount in its history. … Debt service would reach $3.3 billion annually by 2018, or 64 percent more than in 2011, and would remain at that level through 2031. These estimates do not even consider the cost of the next capital program, which begins in 2015.

[E]ven if the MTA raises fares and tolls by 7.5 percent in 2013 and 2015 …, and raises them by the same amount in 2017, it could still face budget gaps that would grow from $600 million in 2016 to $1.2 billion by 2018.

Well, who cares? 2018 is a long way off, right? And things will magically fix themselves by then.

Problem is, the MTA ignored similar warnings eleven years ago, when it took on debt to fund an earlier capital program.

Annual debt service from that short-term decision crimps the operating budget today, forcing the MTA to raise yet more debt.

The MTA will struggle to shoulder its debt in the coming half-decade and beyond despite the fact that if the authority sticks with its fare-hike plan until 2015, fare increases will have clocked in at 66 percent since 2002, twice the inflation rate of 33 percent.


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