Testimony of Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
MTA Fare Hike Hearing
January 14, 2009
Hilton Hotel, Manhattan

Good evening. I am Veronica Vanterpool, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a policy and advocacy organization working for a more balanced transportation network in downstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The proposed 23% fare hike, the largest in NYC subway and bus history, and massive service cuts are dreadful and we are asking our elected officials to prevent them by supporting the financing plan proposed by Richard Ravitch, or other ideas that spread the burden of paying for our transit system equally.  The Ravitch plan, if supported by Governor Paterson and the State Legislature, will reduce the fare increase and prevent service cuts. It will also provide the dollars necessary for a robust multi-year capital construction program, something that is necessary to keep our transit system running and protect many jobs throughout New York State.

But we need leadership from the Governor and State Legislature, because without new revenue and state and city aid, a doomsday scenario is the likely outcome.

The Ravitch recommendations offer equitable solutions to save our transit system from ruin and support a strong NY economy. 

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Very few people of low and moderate income households would pay to drive across the East River.  Why?  Because commuters with the most modest means rely on subways and buses to get around, not cars.  In the Bronx, where average annual household income is the lowest of all 12 counties in the MTA region, 62% of households do not even own a car.    
  2. All beneficiaries of transit--commuters, drivers and businesses—are asked to pay for our region’s transit system.  Drivers benefit from our public transit system, too, because money invested in transit means less traffic on roads.

Supporting this plan may not be easy for many elected officials, but these are the hard choices and leadership positions that are needed.  And just because they are hard, doesn’t mean they are inequitable. 

What is inequitable is any measure that would maintain the disproportionate burden of operating expenses via the pockets of the riding public, especially during economic strain. Everyone benefits, so everyone must pay.

It is time to get real about the service and capital needs of the MTA and deal with them head on. We are tired of legislative members who publicly oppose fare hikes and service cuts yet do very little behind legislative doors to prevent this situation from recurring.  We applaud the many MTA board members who headed up to Albany yesterday, but ultimately, the decision rests with the Governor and the State.

We also strongly support other measures outlined in the Ravitch report such as cashless, electronic tolling that would not require toll booths, bus rapid transit and a regional bus network that would incorporate Westchester and Nassau bus service under the MTA bus family, actions that are long overdue and that will bring additional innovation, efficiency, and cost savings to the agency.  These must be part of any outcome. 

In closing, we do not want to ride on infrequent, delayed, crowded and unsafe, or dirty trains.  We don’t want our elderly burdened because their bus route has been eliminated or Access-A-Ride has been cut.  We don’t want our suburban residents sleeping overnight at their place of employment because their bus service is eliminated.  These dismal scenarios are what lay ahead. 

We want our Legislature to enact what is fair—even if it costs a few votes.  The fare hike and service cuts are anything but fair. 

Thank you.