Testimony of Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
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.
With every passing month, the financial situation of the MTA deteriorates. When Tri-State spoke at last month’s meeting, the operating deficit was $400 million less than it is today and 1,000 MTA workers weren’t nervous about being laid off. And, the payroll tax still anticipated each of the 12 counties in the MTA region paying its fair share for the economic, environmental, and social benefits of a strong and robust transit network.
$90 million in stimulus funds can be applied to this deficit to reduce the impact on transit users. Fewer bus routes can be cut, the wait time on some subway lines can be shortened, parents will have more money to invest on educational materials and not on getting their kids to school, and transit users can save for their rainy day fund.
We advocate to the MTA and its board members that it redirect the 10% of obligated, but not yet spent, stimulus dollars to help alleviate these service cuts and the possibility of a 2011 fare increase greater than the 7.5% already proposed. Transit users who need to get to jobs, businesses who need a reliable workforce that can get to work, on time, and students who need to get to school need this short-term fix. We wish we had more sustainable funding streams to avoid having to move money between capital and operating budgets. The capital budget is also facing a funding shortage of $10 billion.
Of the small menu of options, none of them have unanimous or widespread support. But, we need leaders to stand up for riders and students and make the hard decisions. We call on:
Governor Paterson and the State Legislature: Cutting state aid for student transportation from $45 million to $6 million was unthinkable. And claiming that you’ve done your share to save MetroCards by restoring only $19 million of the $39 million gap (which doesn’t include the rising costs of student transportation over the past 15 years) is unfair.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council: New York City has not increased funding to the MTA since 1995. Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council must work closely with the state and the MTA to establish funding formulas for transit aid that account for inflation and escalating costs of the system. Using 1995 rates as the baseline for funding shortchanges the system in 2010.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano: Nassau County should reinstate the $1.4 million of county funding it cut for Long Island Bus. LI Bus had 33 million riders in 2008 -- a record high. Many LI Bus riders don’t own a car. These cuts leave them stranded.
And finally, transit riders: make your voices heard at next week’s MTA hearings. Put pressure on your elected leaders to find a solution for you and your families.