Testimony of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council
Before the MTA Board on Proposals for Fare Increases
The Garden City Hotel
Garden City, Nassau County, NY
September 16, 2010
Good evening. My name is Larry Rubinstein, and I am a member of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council. I am from Bellmore and, by appointment of the Governor, I am here to advocate for more than 60,000 Nassau County residents who, like myself, rely on the Long Island Rail Road for transportation to their jobs and more. We are taxpayers and unlike others in the region, we contribute to economies of both New York City and Long Island.
Today I am here to express commuter opposition to the proposed fare increases. During the last round of fare increases in 2009, the LIRR Commuter Council supported the MTA’s fare increase request, on the basis of MTA arguments that combined with the payroll tax, the higher fares would financially stabilize the agency. But what did we get for that? We got service cutbacks. We got shorter trains. We got worse service. We got less staff that adds to unemployment. The commuters in New York have had it with the MTA Board appearing with their hands open, asking for more money from the commuters while service deteriorates.
Mr. Walder, you were hired to manage a complex system that provides safe, reliable and, especially important, affordable public transportation. It is now time for you and your Board to address the issues that face the MTA without resorting to fare increases and more service cuts. This past month, the MTA saw what happens when a 1913 signal system goes on fire with the event at the Hall Signal Tower. More then 300 trains were cancelled. This is an example of what happens when the MTA fails in its responsibility to the riders to provide for up grades and improvements. This is just an example of what is to come with more budget and staffing cuts.
The door is now open to make positive changes. It is time for you to re-assess your policies. It is time to make sure that all tickets are collected on trains. It is time to get a handle on overtime. It is time to have the unions participate in talks about saving money. It is time to fight for Federal operating assistance for large transit systems and to use available Federal funding. It is time for the MTA Board to go to the State Legislature and get them to re-instate the 143 million dollars of dedicated and earmarked tax revenue for the MTA and its operations that was transferred to the General Fund.
With the proposed fare increases, Long Islanders will increasingly ask themselves, “Is it cheaper and more convenient to drive?” Last week my daughter came home from college by bus with 4 of her friends. The bus dropped them off in front of Penn Station. For each student to ride the LIRR at today’s prices it would have cost over $21.00 each round trip. The bus from Delaware only cost $35.00 round trip. I drove into the city to pick them up, and another parent drove them back when they went back to school. This is where the downward spiral begins. When you make public transportation less affordable, and increasingly inconvenient, not only are you taking money away from the MTA, but you are taking money right out of the State coffers too.
In 1962 John F. Kennedy our 35th President of the United States, when talking about space exploration said “We choose to go to the moon. . . . . . . not because it is easy, but because it is hard”. If the MTA Board used that model speech today, your words would go something like this:
We choose to raise fares, we choose to raise tolls, we choose to cut services, we choose to inconvenience millions of people, we choose to have hundreds if not thousands lose their job, we choose to add to air pollution, not because it is hard, but because it is easy.
Don’t take the easy route. Take the harder route. Go back to your office and look at all the options you have.
Talk to the PCAC Commuter Councils, Mr. Walder. I have never seen you at any of these meetings asking our advice or opinions. Come and talk to us. The PCAC is the eyes, ears, and an added voice of the riders.
It is time for the MTA to meet its obligations to the people it serves. Do the right thing. Thank you.