Following a report that said it pays a lot more to New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority that it gets in service, Rockland County, N.Y., officials have begun to explore a withdrawal from the MTA.
Rockland, about 15 miles north of New York City in the Mid-Hudson Valley, would like neighboring Orange County to join it. The MTA’s Metro-North Railroad provides commuter train service to those two counties.
The report by Cambridge Systematics Inc. of New York said Rockland receives about 62 cents in service for every dollar its residents and businesses contribute to the MTA, up from the 44-cent total in 2005.
“The report provides the solid foundation and updated data we need to now explore the realities of withdrawal,” county Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said.
The county would need enabling legislation by the state. It would have to repay the MTA the balance on any commuter rail revenue bonds. “The amount could potentially be substantial, even crippling,” the report said.
According to Cambridge Systematics, the county could reissue the bonds, but the county’s bonding costs far exceed the MTA’s. The MTA’s 2010 financial report lists all revenue bonds at $14.9 billion, but commuter rail revenue bonds are not specified.
“By following the path toward withdrawal, the county will be able to gain more information and the financial impact on the county can be better determined,” said planning and public transportation commissioner Thomas Vanderbeek.
Vanderbeek, however, said secession is too big for the county to undertake alone, and suggested a partnership with Orange County, its northern neighbor.
Falling short of withdrawal, Rockland could negotiate with the MTA for reduced payments or increased value, or the return of more money through the Dutchess, Orange, and Rockland Fund. Messages seeking comment were left with Orange County Executive Edward Diana.
The MTA, in a statement, said it brings “enormous value to its residents and businesses in ways that are ignored by this flawed study.”
It added: “Rockland residents enjoy higher property values, Rockland’s Metro-North commuters bring home higher salaries, and Rockland’s overall economy benefits from the regional economy and its robust transportation system.”