Testimony of Veronica Vanterpool
MTA Board Meeting
July 23, 2008
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am Veronica Vanterpool, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional non-profit policy organization that works for a more balanced, equitable, and transit friendly region.
Today the MTA will present a budget full of bad news – fare increases, declining revenues and an uncertain future.
Transit advocates such as Tri-State Transportation Campaign have worked diligently to inform the public and our elected officials about the MTA's calamitous financial predicament: years of underfunding, ballooning interest payments for money borrowed, and more recently, rising costs of raw materials such as steel, declining operating revenue from a struggling economy, and high gas prices.
Meanwhile, ridership on our subways and buses is flourishing, reaching levels we haven’t seen since the 1950s.
And NYC transit riders are not the only ones who stand to suffer. Along with potential fare hikes, this budget plans to slash funding for Long Island Bus, an entity that is treated more like an unwanted stepchild than part of the MTA family. Ridership on Long Island Bus is up 4.8% from the first half of last year, yet the MTA and Nassau County refuse to find a sustainable funding solution for Long Island Bus. This is unacceptable and must change. Long Island Bus is an entity that is vital to Nassau’s economy and environment, and especially vital to the 8% of Nassau County households that do not have access to a car.
Our commuter rail lines are also facing an uncertain future, with projects like the LIRR Third Track postponed because of lack of MTA funding.
All of this suggests that relief is nowhere in sight. But the positive news is that there is time. The MTA says a fare hike will not go into effect until next year. In between now and then, Richard Ravitch’s Commission will report on ways to fund our transit network. After that, it will be up to Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and our State Legislature to rise to the occasion, find the funding necessary for our transit network, and bring relief to transit riders. Such relief is necessary, but will require strong leadership, from our elected leaders and from MTA CEO Elliot Sander.
While the MTA is very far from perfect, it’s worth noting that many of its problems are out of its control- they stem from broad economic trends or poor decisions of City and State elected officials who have not taken the needs of our transit system seriously.
The problems that are in its control include its credibility issue with the public. The agency must continue to improve both its relationship with the public and its riders. It must show advocates, business leaders, and elected officials that it is serious about trimming fat from its budget, cares that riders have up-to-date information, and that it is willing to have increased oversight.