Testimony of Ya-Ting Liu, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
MTA Public Hearing, Manhattan, NY
September 13, 2010

Good morning. My name is Ya-Ting Liu and I am the federal advocate for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization and a steering committee member of the New York State Transportation Equity Alliance, statewide coalition fighting for a more equitable transportation system.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign cannot support the MTA’s proposal to raise fares in 2011. In 2009, we supported fare increases as part of a funding package that asked everyone who benefits from the largest transit network in the country to pay their fair share. Since then, the state stole $143 million earmarked for the MTA and revenue from the payroll mobility tax came in $400 million short. The only party that has fulfilled their obligation to keep our transit system running is 8 million New Yorkers who ride the city’s buses, trains and subways every day. For living up to their part of the bargain with a 2009 fare increase, transit riders were rewarded with the most devastating service cuts in MTA’s recent history: elimination of 37 bus routes, elimination of W and V trains, increased wait times and crowding on all our buses and trains.

Transit funding is a political problem. There will be no end to our current transit crisis until riders demand solutions, aid and relief from our city, state and federal elected officials. Blaming the MTA will not make transit funding appear. Only lawmakers can provide stable funding for transit. In 2008, Albany lawmakers said no to a congestion pricing proposal by the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission that would have generated $420 million in annual revenues for transit. In 2009, they said no to the Ravitch Commission’s recommendation for East River bridge tolls that would have raise an additional $600 million a year to expand transit service and keep fares affordable. Right now, there is a federal bill stuck in Congress that would provide $345 million in emergency aid to our region to restore service cuts and avert fare hikes.

Elected officials who point blame at the MTA hope the transit riding public never realize they are the ones with the responsibility to ensure our region’s transit service remains safe, affordable and reliable. Voters angry about the recent service cuts should ask elected representatives at the city, state and federal level how they plan on dealing with the MTA’s financial crisis.

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. It is inequitable to leave those who can least afford to drive, especially out on Long Island, stranded. On average, transit riding households in NYC have incomes that are about half of those households with cars. MTA’s proposal to eliminate its contribution of $26 million to Long Island Bus would decimate the system. Instead of working with MTA to find a viable funding solution to save Long Island bus riders, Nassau County Executive Mangano’s call to privatize Long Island Bus will leave bus riders with less reliable service like it was decades ago when 10 separate operators ran the system.

It’s time to reconsider East River bridge tolls or congestion pricing (with cashless, electronic 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.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the New York State Transportation Equity Alliance urge New Yorkers to demand transit funding solutions from their elected representatives today. As transit riders, we have already paid our fair share and it’s time our lawmakers step up to the plate.