I am Kate Slevin, Vice President of State Programs at the Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy organization that works to improve mobility, economic opportunity and sustainability in the New York region.
In 2016, subway ridership declined for the first year since 2009, and bus ridership continued its troubling downward spiral. These statistics provide more evidence that transportation in our growing city is worsening. From slow buses in Brooklyn to delayed subways in the Bronx, getting around is increasing difficult, prompting New Yorkers to abandon mass transit for automobiles.
There is no single silver bullet to fix these problems, but the right combination of measures will make traveling around better. I am here today to support four solutions that will help improve our transit network:
- Test out the so-called “Freedom Ticket,” or a ticket that reduces LIRR fares for certain LIRR trips within Brooklyn and Queens. RPA has long supported using the LIRR through the boroughs more efficiently as an alternative to overcrowded subways and buses. Right now the LIRR runs through neighborhoods such as East New York and Jamaica, but the high fares prohibit use by nearby residents. The LIRR could also serve as a transit alternative during the upcoming closure of the L train.
- Take advantage of the L train shutdown to turn it into a modern subway line, with easier transfers, escalators and elevators that work, platform doors, and changes that will allow the MTA to run more trains when the line reopens. All the closed stations should become ADA accessible. For too long, transit infrastructure in our region has been upgraded in piecemeal fashion, dragging out projects and significantly adding to costs. The L train improvements would show how upgrades to our aging system can be done faster and for less money.
- Adequately fund the MTA. We were concerned with reports that the Governor’s budget reduces dedicated MTA funding form the payroll mobility tax by $67 million. As our system sees increasing breakdowns, the last thing we need is a reduction in funding. We urge the State Legislature to restore this funding in ongoing budget negotiations.
- Plan for the future: Create a plan to address declining bus ridership, and start working on the next subway expansions, like the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway and Utica Avenue subway in Brooklyn.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.