Statement of Kate Slevin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Kate Slevin and I am executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a policy watchdog organization working for a more equitable and environmentally sound transportation system in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
The MTA’s financial crisis is not news. For years, transit advocates have known such a day would come. We weren’t reading tea leaves, we just knew our past city and state leaders were relying too heavily on borrowed money to pay for necessary transit improvements.
Our past mistakes have come to haunt us and today we face a truly harsh reality. The MTA is facing ballooning deficits, reaching $1.8 billion by 2010.
The Independent Budget Office and the Straphangers Campaign estimate that fares would have to increase 48% by 2010 to cover the MTA’s massive debt. Already, transit riders pay the largest percentage of any operating revenue of any transit system in the country. .
This means that we have no choice but to look to other sources of revenue, like congestion pricing and more city and state aid, to help pay off the MTA’s debt.
We must be equitable in our policy choices: there cannot be a fare hike with congestion pricing, for example. Consider: of NYC households that earn less than $50,000 a year, 67% don’t even own a car, let alone drive in Manhattan and pay for parking daily. Manhattan bound car commuters earn 23% more than subway and bus riders.
In short, we are calling on our elected leaders to support congestion pricing and provide more state aid to ensure that our looming financial calamity is spread across the region in an equitable manner, and not shouldered by those who can least afford it, transit riders.
The MTA is right to address its deficit without reducing transit service or compromising our transportation network’s infrastructure needs. Subway ridership has risen to its highest level since 1952, up 3.4% between 2005-2006 alone. The recovery of our transit system since the 1980s is one of the great urban revitalization tales of our time, and today, our transit system is the backbone of our City’s booming economy.
One last comment: if toll hikes are needed, the MTA could give something back to drivers by implementing non-stop tolls. This technology, already being used by the Port Authority and NJ Turnpike Authority, removes traditional toll gates and allows drivers to move through tolling facilities at regular speeds. Drivers may have to pay higher tolls, but at least they will be getting more for their money. Thank you.