Testimony of Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
MTA Public Hearing, Bronx, NY
September 15, 2010

Good evening. My name is Veronica Vanterpool and I am the associate director for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization and steering committee member of the New York State Transportation Equity Alliance, a statewide coalition fighting for a more equitable and sustainable transportation system.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign cannot support the MTA’s proposal to raise fares in 2011 nor its proposal to cut funding for Long Island Bus. These actions are a result of a 2009 financing package that crumbled. Since then, the state stole $143 million dedicated to transit and revenue from the payroll mobility tax was $400 million short. As a result, the 8 million New Yorkers who ride the city’s buses, trains and subways every day along with 104,000 daily LI Bus riders are paying more of the costs to keep our transit system running. These consecutive years of bad news has to stop.

Our political leadership has failed us. Chronic state and city underfunding of our transit system backs the MTA into a corner today. The MTA only has a few options to deal with its financial problems--improve its efficiency, raise fares and tolls, or cut service. And, riders are experiencing the costs of all three.

But, there are many more options available to our state legislators.

For example, why are transit riders paying a $2.25 fee to cross the East River while drivers still cross for free? It is time to reconsider East River bridge tolls or congestion pricing (with electronic tolling and no toll booths). Revenue from either could help prevent future fare increases and service cuts and are more equitable solutions than money saved from service cuts or new money raised with fare increases. These have a more devastating impact on lower income households and communities of color than a fee to drive into Manhattan.

There might be a silver lining in these dark clouds. Voters are tired of the political gamesmanship. The “Gang of Four” that stymied progressive transportation policy are now down to two thanks to yesterday’s primary results. Bronx transit riders, and transit riders in New York, are better off as a result. We hope new members work with current legislators to make transit a priority.

In sum, we need innovative and equitable solutions and stronger leadership for transit. One idea that has merit is 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, not transit funding cuts, from their elected representatives today. To start, all of us, including the MTA, should be pushing for a return of the $143 million that was taken in December. As transit riders, we have already paid our fair share and it’s time our lawmakers step up to the plate. Thank you.