Testimony of Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
MTA Board Meeting, New York, NY
July 26, 2010

Good morning. My name is Veronica Vanterpool and I am the associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign cannot support the MTA’s proposal to raise fares in 2011. Circumstances have changed since 2009 when we supported an overall funding package that included fare increases in 2009 and 2011. The state stole $143 million earmarked for the MTA and revenue from the funding package was lower than projected. These circumstances forced the agency to cut service when it promised riders it would not. Riders are now left with more crowded trains and buses and longer waits while paying more of the systems costs.  

It is inequitable to keep asking transit riders to contribute more to the system while drivers, who reap the congestion busting benefits of our transit system, can still travel into the densest city in America for free. On average, transit riding households in NYC have incomes that are about half of those households with cars.  It’s time to reconsider East River bridge tolls or congestion pricing (with cashless, elecronic tolling and no toll booths) as a more equitable solution to our transit funding woes. And, it’s time to consider new ideas such as a $1 Metrocard surcharge which will raise new revenue and stop the wasteful practice of toss-away fare cards.

You can’t just blame the MTA. Blame Albany, blame the City of New York, blame Congress for not passing a $2 billion dollar emergency transit funding package. Elected officials who simply point fingers at the MTA are dodging their responsibility to ensure our region’s transit service remains safe, affordable, and reliable. Voters angry about the recent service cuts, especially bus riders on Long Island, should ask candidates how they plan on dealing with the MTA’s financial crisis.

We are deeply concerned about the future of Long Island Bus. The MTA has proposed cutting its entire contribution to the system, $40 million, or a third of Long Island’s Bus budget. This will decimate the system and leave riders stranded. Instead, the MTA and Nassau County Executive Mangano should give greater priority to regional bus, an option supported by Mangano’s predecessor, Thomas Suozzi. The MTA’s decision to cut its contribution is especially hasty given the next capital plan, which already has state approval, includes funds for a Regional Bus Study. Furthermore, County Executive Mangano’s proposals to privatize LI Bus should be retracted. Private buses will not save Nassau money or help bus riders. Privatization will lead to a loss of free Metrocard transfers and possibly frequent fare increases and service reductions. The proposal is a step backward. LI Bus was once a system of 10 separate private lines that were consolidated in 1973 The private lines couldn’t provide the level of service needed for the County. Equipment was old, fares varied and the service was far from seamless, resulting in uncoordinated transfers and disjointed connections. Is this what County Executive Mangano wants for 104,000 daily LI Bus riders? 

There is still time to consider other options. These are unacceptable. Thank you.