Testimony of Ya-Ting Liu, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
MTA Brooklyn Hearing on Service Reductions
March 3, 2010

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am Ya-Ting Liu, federal advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional transportation policy watchdog organization.

The frustration and despair you hear tonight from transit riders in Brooklyn is being echoed across the country as every city - large and small - is slashing or eliminating transit service altogether, raising fares and laying off workers. These austerity and belt tightening measures are coming at time when Americans are increasingly dependent on public transportation to make ends meet. Even though the transit crisis we are facing in NYC is not unique to us, the rest of the country is watching what we do and how we chose to solve this transit funding problem. We can solve it on the backs of 8 million New Yorkers who depend on the transit system everyday or we can demand lawmakers in City Hall, Albany and Washington D.C to provide adequate funding for transit when people need it the most.

Where is the money going to come from?

First, we urge the MTA to redirect 10% of the obligated, but not yet spent, federal stimulus dollars to help alleviate these service cuts and the possibility of a 2011 fare increase greater than 7.5% already proposed. Congress recognized the severity of budget gaps facing transit agencies across the country and allowed this one-time flex for operating. Taking this action would yield $90 million in stimulus funds to reduce the scale of service cuts as they are currently 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.

Second, we call on Governor Paterson and the State Legislature to step it up. 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.

Third, we call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council to contribute their fair share. 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.

And finally, we urge transit riders to take action. Transit funding is a political problem. If you are tired of coming to these hearings and do not want to be back here next year fighting another round of service cuts and fare hikes, get in touch with your elected officials today and ask them what they are going to do to ensure that our trains and buses are running.

Thank you.