Testimony of Veronica Vanterpool
MTA Board - Finance Committee Meeting
June 23, 2008

Good morning. I am Veronica Vanterpool, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an independent policy watchdog organization dedicated to forging a more a more balanced, equitable, and environmentally friendly transportation network.

We hope the news of station rehabilitation delays is a serious wake up call for city and state legislators who have thus far failed to raise the revenue necessary to fund our transportation network. Ignoring the needs of our transit system has real impacts on their constituents, most of who use the subways, buses and commuter rails to get around the region. At a time of record transit ridership and high gas prices, the last thing New Yorkers need is service cuts.

While the MTA has certainly not been a model of good public relations in recent weeks, it’s worth noting that many of the cost increases the agency is experiencing are simply out of its control. Steel, concrete, and other infrastructure-related costs have skyrocketed in recent months. The rapidly increasing cost of gas that has affected all of our pocketbooks in one way or another has also impacted the MTA’s operating budget.

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 region’s economy. Recently, it has helped protect us from declining homes values and the impacts of increasing gas prices. For example, according to an April National Public Radio news report, while many areas far from cities are seeing large drops in housing values, housing prices have actually gone up in many areas with transit options.

Now the question is, can city and state politicians find revenue necessary to fund our transit network? Will they take investment in our transit network seriously? Transit riders certainly hope so. After state leaders ignored the City’s wishes to implement congestion pricing, a policy that would have raised hundreds of millions annually for our transit system, they certainly have a responsibility to find the revenue necessary to fund our transit system. Thank you.