Testimony of Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Senate Hearing on MTA & Gubernatorial Nominee for Chair and CEO

September 3, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am Veronica Vanterpool, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization working for a more balanced transportation network in downstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

We strongly support the Senate’s confirmation of Jay Walder as Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the MTA. Mr. Walder is a qualified and experienced transportation professional who will bring decades of global knowledge to his post along with a familiar, local understanding of transit’s role in the lives of New Yorkers and the economy of the tri-state region.

Mr. Walder will take over the MTA at a difficult time, and we urge the Legislature to quickly confirm his appointment so he can begin working to meet the challenges ahead. The most immediate challenge is the need to find sufficient funding for the MTA’s 2010-2014 capital program while keeping the agency financially stable. Though the NYS Legislature recently enacted a financing solution that prevented crippling transit service cuts and massive fare hikes, concerns abound regarding the ability to fully finance the system’s needs.

Mr. Walder’s previous tenure as ED and CEO of the MTA in the mid-1990s foreshadowed many of the same challenges that await him today: jockeying political and public support to stabilize the agency’s shaky financial footing amidst increasing system needs and growing transit ridership. He also dealt with declining city and state transit aid, looming budget cuts, and delayed system work.
However, with strategic investments, the next CEO can avoid criticisms that have plagued previous tenures, such as limited commitment to improving bus service. Greater use of bus rapid transit would allow the agency to quickly grow the region’s transit capacity at relatively low cost. The agency must also put Long Island Bus on sound financial footing and continue to work towards a comprehensive regional bus system.

Mr. Walder should also continue valuable initiatives begun under his predecessors, such as a sustainability effort that includes transit-oriented development, putting high-speed cashless tolls on all MTA crossings, and improving customer service.

Sound, stable, experienced leadership is needed to keep our transit system on track to progress, especially as the economy rebounds. The expectations and benefits tied to this position are deserving of competitive compensation that enables independence and security. Any candidate should feel invested, proud, and secure about decisions made as they have a direct impact on people’s livelihoods and New York’s prosperity. And a price tag can’t be affixed to these. Thank you.