Report recommends New York tax on cannabis to fund MTA modernization plan

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The president of the New York City Transit Authority says subway service has improved since he took over a year ago, but more funding is needed.

Andy Byford spoke to business leaders Wednesday, one day after going before the City Council to address the ongoing problems facing mass transit.

He says the Transit Authorty's new plan, called Fast Forward, will overhaul the subway system in 10 years.

Now, a report from an urban policy think tank is recommending a dedicated tax on cannabis to fund the MTA's ambitious modernization plans.

The report was released by Mitchell L. Moss, a transportation expert at New York University.

Researchers believe that taxing cannabis in New York could generate more than $600 million a year, and Governor Andrew Cuomo -- who has opposed legalization -- has formed a panel to study it.

Ronnie Hakim, the MTA's Managing Director, did not explicitly endorse the proposal. But she stopped short of rejecting it.

"What we're looking for is alternative revenue sources," she said. "And where those sources come from is for others to decide...My job, job one, is running the transportation system, and that's what we do. We need money to be able to do that."

At a rally before Tuesday's hearing, local leaders called on the state to approve congestion pricing and the millionaire's tax to ease the deficit - instead of passing on the cost to the riders.

Transit Authority spokesman Shams Tarek released a statement: "We're focused on improving service in the short term and completely modernizing the transit system with new infrastructure and better accessibility in the medium and long term."

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