Groups Warn of Fare Hikes, Service Cuts and Fewer Transit Repairs, At Hearing by Governor Paterson’s Commission on MTA Financing
New York’s Economy, Environment and Mobility at Risk, Say Groups
The following is a press release from the Empire State Transportation Alliance, a coalition of which Tri-State is a member. For more information, contact: Gene Russianoff (917) 575-9434 / Michael O’Loughlin (917) 957-9106
Leading transportation, environmental and labor groups warned today that New York faced major fare hikes, and cuts in transit service and vital repairs unless new City and State aid is raised to address the MTA’s “titanic” financial problems.
The warning came at the first public hearing of the State Commission on MTA Financing. The Commission - appointed by Governor David Paterson and headed by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch - is charged with recommending ways to meet the MTA’s financial needs over the next ten years. Its report is due out by December 5th.
In July, the MTA officially announced major operating deficits in its $6 billion operating budgets for 2009 and 2010. The deficits are caused in large part by declining tax revenues in a bad economy; rising fuel costs; and the impact of years of massive borrowing to finance badly needed repairs.
The agency’s enormous debt has made the MTA the fifth largest debtor in the U.S., behind only three other states and New York City.
The MTA has also proposed cutting $2.7 billion from its five- year, $14.7 billion core capital program - nearly a fifth of its current efforts to bring the subways, buses and commuter lines to a state of good repair. The cuts include rehabilitating 19 fewer subway stations and $336 million in fans to clear smoke in emergencies.
The agency faces a shortfall of more than $17 billion in its 2010-2014 capital program.
“Years of borrowing as a result of the City and State’s disinvestment in mass transit are coming to a head as the price of fuel has drawn many new people to transit, with total ridership up in the last year by more than 5% on the subways. What’s more, the proposed hikes would come at a time when working and middle class New Yorkers are already struggling with a rising cost of living, and real economic hardship,” said Roger Toussaint, president of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100.
“New York’s subway, bus, and commuter fares just went up in March. But now the MTA says it needs to raise the price of MetroCards and commutation tickets again in July 2009,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. “Back-to-back increases that have occurred only once before in the 104-year history of New York transit.”
“Failure to make the necessary investments in the critical transportation infrastructure would severely hamper New York’s economic viability. We simply can’t allow this to happen,” said Kevin Corbett, co-chair of the Empire State Transportation Alliance.
“As a result of population growth and high energy prices transit and bus ridership are at all-time highs, and the MTA system is maxed out. Unless the state invests now to expand the system we will condemn generations of New Yorkers to elbow-to-rib congestion and an underperforming economy,” Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association.
“The MTA’s problem is clear: The City and State have inadequately funded mass transit for years. The formula for funding mass transportation should be changed,” said Paul S. White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
“Thanks to years of delayed investments in our transit system by the City and the State, we have an aging infrastructure and a staggering fiscal crisis,” said Richard Kassel, senior attorney and transportation expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Quite simply, we won’t meet our future economic, environmental, or sustainability goals if the City and State don’t make transit investments a top, top priority.
“Every New Yorker has a stake in better transit — and more transit,” said Andy Darrell, Vice President at Environmental Defense Fund. “With gas prices high and our population growing, it’s time for innovations like bus-rapid-transit that can be built quickly. And it’s time for innovative, fair financing — including road pricing — to put our transit network on firm financial footing. The economy and the environment can’t wait.”
“Will already beleaguered riders be abandoned to cope with these difficulties without help, with higher fares and a big downturn in fixing our old system? Or will Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and our legislative leaders fight for transit? The next several months will tell,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.