Testimony of Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
MTA Bronx Hearing on Service Reductions
March 3, 2010

My name is Veronica Vanterpool and I am the associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization working for better transit and transportation policy in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

As a Bronx resident, I am pleased to join the collective voice here tonight to note the hardships caused by these proposed service cuts and the elimination of student Metrocards. In this borough, 62% of households do not own cars and the median household income is a little over $35,000. This means that reduced bus service and more crowded and delayed trains will have a devastating impact on Bronx transit users, and Bronx families will be spending more of their already stretched income on getting their kids to school.

This situation is bad. Without the service cuts, the MTA has a $750 million hole in its day-to-day budget. When factored in, the service cuts, elimination of Metrocards, and the MTA’s cost cutting measures (like a 10% pay cut for MTA administrative staff and reduced overtime) only close some of the deficit. The problem is that large.

This is the worst package of service and funding cuts since 1975. And, this is the worst recession facing this country since the Great Depression. How can our region recover if we cannot rely on transit to find employment or to keep our existing jobs? Or, if getting to school becomes a financial balancing act for families struggling with shaky finances?

This doesn’t have to be the outcome. Here are three solutions:

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. We need to put pressure on our city, state and federal elected officials to make transit a priority and find long-term funding solutions. If you are tired of this annual fight for transit service 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 and ask them what they will do to ensure our trains and buses are running.

Our voices are being heard tonight. Keep up the pressure on all those who have the power to make the changes we need and deserve.

Thank you.