Political Leaders Urged to Continue Their Support for Reliable, Modern Transit Service
Funding Shortfall Would Threaten New York’s Economic Vitality, Quality of Life
NEW YORK – The former heads of Metropolitan Transportation Authority, along with a broad coalition of transit, environment and labor representatives, today strongly urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to fully fund the MTA’s proposed capital plan. Support for the transit system – New York’s most valuable economic asset – is essential to the health and vitality of the metropolitan region, they said.
Former MTA Chief Executive Elliot Sander and former MTA Chairmen Peter Stangl and Jay Walder, along with Denise Richardson, Executive Director, General Contractors Association; Gene Russianoff of NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign; and Peggy Shepard, Executive Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice urged leaders in Albany to identify new revenue sources that would enable funding of the full, five-year plan without the need to take on additional, budget-draining debt.
“The transit network is the lifeline of our region,” said Mr. Sander. “If the system were left to languish after the tremendous strides that we have made, we would be putting the economic success of the city, region and state at risk.”
The event was hosted by the Empire State Transportation Alliance, a coalition of business, civic, labor and environmental organizations. Other participants included Richard T. Anderson, President, New York Building Congress; Marcia Bystryn, President, New York League of Conservation Voters; John Raskin, Executive Director, Riders Alliance; Ross Pepe, President, Construction Industry Council; Norman Brown, Legislative Director, NY State Council of Machinists; Kevin Corbett, Vice President, Corporate Development, AECOM USA; Alex Matthiessen, President, Blue Marble Project; Bill Henderson, Executive Director, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA; Justin Bernbach, Government Relations Director, HNTB; Samantha Wilt, Energy Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council; and Juliette Michaelson, Vice President for Strategy, Regional Plan Association.
For nearly 40 years, the governors of New York State and the legislature have recognized the need to invest in the transit network, the engine that powers the metropolitan region’s $1.5 trillion economy. This support has returned the system to working order and begun to allow for modest expansion and modernization after decades of decline and decay.
“The restoration of the transit network provided the foundation of the region’s economic renaissance over the last two decades,” said former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota. “With safer, more efficient and more comfortable transit options, the metropolitan area once again became the country’s most desirable place to live and do business, and New York subway ridership has surged to record levels.”
Yet without long-range capital funding, the MTA will not be able to make sustained improvements to its network of trains, subways and buses. Recent capital programs have enabled construction on the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access and the completion of the Fulton transit center. They have driven crucial upgrades to subway technology, improving service and supporting amenities including countdown clocks and real-time information kiosks. Capital plans also helped fund the installation of new tracks, station rehabilitation and the expansion of the Atlantic Terminal, improving transit connections to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Under state law, the MTA has presented Albany with its detailed plans for capital improvements to subways, buses and commuter rail for the years 2015 to 2019. Historically, the governor and legislative leaders approve a version of the plan early in the five-year period. A fully funded capital plan would support crucial state-of-good-repair investments. It would allow for Metro-North access to Penn Station -- connecting Bronx commuters to more job opportunities. The second phase of the Second Avenue subway would be started, extending the line into Harlem; and fund new technology to replace the subway’s early 20th century signaling system and improve the system’s frequency and reliability.
The proposed $32 billion plan is sizeable, yet it still falls short of what is needed to keep the $1 trillion system in a state of good repair and to continue its modest expansion. For too long, the MTA has had to rely on insufficient and uncertain funding, which has slowed crucial upgrades to commuter rails, subways, bridges, tunnels and buses, even as ridership grows. At the same time, MTA spending to service its debt has surged to more than $2 billion annually as the agency is forced to borrow to fund major projects.
The pressure on the MTA’s physical assets to serve its increasing ridership is starting to show, with equipment and facility-related train delays on the rise. Expanding transit ridership is good for the environment, reducing traffic congestion and pollution. Yet we will continue to face threats from severe weather and climate change that will require future investments to make the transit network more resilient.
Former MTA Chairman Jay Walder said: “The transit system makes New York possible, makes New York dynamic, makes New York a place of opportunity and constant change. Every five years we need to find the will and the funding to keep that system maintained and growing. We can’t afford not to.”
Mort Downey, former MTA executive director and deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation, said: “The MTA has been the national leader in transit investment over the past three decades, taking on the need for renewing its existing assets even as it builds new projects to serve the region’s future. This investment has succeeded in building ridership, supporting development and providing the basis for economic expansion. Now is not the time to turn back on progress.”
Peter Stangl, former MTA Chairman and CEO, said: “MTA services are the lifeblood of the NYC and regional economies. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, we came very close to losing these services to neglect and disinvestment. Once the downward slide starts, it is very difficult and expensive to reverse it, as history has demonstrated. So we must continue to move forward. The only proven way to do that is by funding a multiyear investment program.”
“A strong MTA system is the primary reason our regional economy has been able to support and sustain the significant economic recovery and job growth we’ve seen over the last two to three years. That system is only held together by continued capital investment,” said Denise Richardson, Executive Director of the General Contractors Association. “Our elected leaders must get serious and adopt nothing short of a fully funded five-year MTA capital program to ensure that success continues for the MTA’s 8.5 million daily users -- and millions more anticipated over the next few years.”
Peggy Shepard, Executive Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said: “Full funding of the MTA’s five-year capital plan helps ensure that a city of transit-dependent riders can count on safe, affordable and reliable transit to get to their schools and their jobs. As we consider a changing climate, Hurricane Sandy teaches us that we need additional funding to ensure that our transit system is more resilient, and that there are adequate funds to implement strategies to adapt to and mitigate the effects of extreme weather events on a system that is the lifeblood of the city.”
“Riders have benefited greatly from past investments in metropolitan transit,” said Gene Russianoff of the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, a transit riders group. “It has meant thousands of new vehicles replacing aging cars. The rehabilitation of hundreds of stations. Miles of new signals that allow increased service, safer trips and more information, including the popular ‘countdown’ clocks, for customers.”
“A fully funded MTA capital plan is critical to the region's economic and environmental prosperity,” said Marcia Bystryn, President, New York League of Conservation Voters. “In the face of a growing population, a changing climate and an economy that is still in recovery, New Yorkers can't afford anything less.”
John Samuelsen, President, Transport Workers Union Local 100, said: “The working women and men who move New York support a robust and fully funded five-year capital program. It is vital to the sustainability for the immediate and long-term future of the region and the state. Investment in the maintenance and upkeep of our extensive network of buses and rails mean mobility and opportunity in and around New York City, and manufacturing jobs in upstate New York.”
Veronica Vanterpool, Executive Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said: “Fully funded five-year capital plans for the MTA and upstate/suburban transit systems are non-negotiable—anything less will result in unreliable, unaffordable and unsafe transit service that would severely undermine our state’s growth, vitality and quality of life. Finding new and sustainable revenue sources to support transit is a must to keep residents and businesses in the state and New York’s economy strong.”
Norman Brown, Legislative Director, New York State Council of Machinists, said: “A fully funded MTA Capital Plan is critical to the future of all workers in the region. Whenever you move from your home to your employer or from your employer to your children's school, you are either using the MTA system itself or your road commute is made easier by the fact that the other 13 million people in the region are on the MTA. In addition, the MTA Capital Plan provides an enormous number of jobs in transit manufacturing throughout New York State. Many are in communities suffering from the loss of manufacturing employment. MTA capital projects provide a wage stream to those working households and a tax base to communities.”
“The MTA transit network is the circulatory system of our great region, and makes New Yorkers’ carbon footprints the smallest the country,” said Richard Schrader, New York Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As we saw after Sandy, when the MTA isn’t working, New York can’t work. A fully funded capital plan is necessary to keep our system running and improving with ever expanding numbers of riders now and into the future.”
The Empire State Transportation Alliance is a coalition of business, civic, labor and environmental organizations that seek to build consensus for expanded resources for New York State transportation. Through research, public outreach and advocacy, ESTA supports spending plans that continue the progress made in restoring New York's transportation infrastructure. Since 1999, ESTA has identified potential investment scenarios and crafted effective education and outreach campaigns that increase public understanding of the urgent capital program needs facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York State Department of Transportation. For a full list of ESTA members, visit www.rpa.org/esta.