Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Testimony at MTA Finance Committee Meeting
April 27, 2009

Good morning. My name is Kate Slevin and I am the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization working for a more balanced transportation system.

Today we will hear bad news - that the MTA’s deficit is growing, well past the original $1.2 billion estimate.

The need for an MTA rescue plan is even more urgent. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign continues to support an MTA plan that balances the burden of paying for the system among drivers, riders and businesses, and one that plugs the operating deficit and invests in a multi-year capital program.

The politicking that has gone on for the past month over an MTA rescue plan is an embarrassment for New York. While transit riders are facing drastic service cuts and fare increases, Albany aides are telling the media that “Malcolm and Shelly are having a huge fight right now.” It sounds like an episode of Gossip Girl, not discussions between some of New York’s most powerful officials about the future of our transit system. And it leaves transit riders convinced that politicians are too busy worrying about their own power plays to save the bus line that takes people in their neighborhood to work.

While the Senate’s plan is a step in the right direction, it should not be approved in its current form. The bridge tolls supported by Governor Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are favorable to the car based fees introduced by the Senate, and some of the specific Senate language in the bill, such as a line item veto by Capital Program Review Board members, would give individual politicians too much power.

This level of dysfunction in Albany needs to stop. Governor Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, move past the power plays and show us that you can lead. Find us a plan that balances the burden among everyone, and rescues our system.

Other legislators also need to step up to the plate. Long Island Bus riders will be hit the hardest of anyone in the system with 75% fare increases, elimination of eight bus routes and reduction in service on others, elimination of free transfers between Long Island Bus and NYC Transit subways and buses. But Senator Craig Johnson and Senator Dean Skelos are doing nothing except opposing other people’s plans.

Without emergency action in Albany, the vicious cycle of transit disinvestment, fare increases, service decline, job loss, a weakened economy and compromised safety begins.

Our ability to become a greener, more livable, attractive city, will be compromised by middle school politics.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, Governor David Paterson, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, are you really going to let this happen? Millions of people are relying on you and need your leadership. Thank you.

Kate Slevin
Tri-State Transportation Campaign