Statement of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA
Before the MTA Board
December 21, 2011
I am William Henderson, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. The PCAC was established by the State Legislature to serve as the coordinating organization for three riders councils created by the state in 1981.
Today this Board is poised to approve a $12.67 billion dollar budget with many moving parts. As at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting, I’m here to ask you to take a modest step toward restoring vital service that was cut last year. The proposal that has been made, for a $20 million, or $.02 billion, service restoration fund would not restore all of the damaging cuts that have been made, but it would allow the operating agencies to eliminate some of the more egregious impacts of the cuts and provide flexibility to make low cost beneficial changes.
We recognize the financial pressures that the MTA faces, but the direct impacts of service cuts are still hurting riders, and their aggregate impacts are making the MTA network more difficult and less convenient, discouraging people from using the system. At a larger level, this is a burden on our economy. You only have to consider what happens to businesses along the L line when it is shut down to understand the importance of service to the economic wellbeing of our region. Whether or not it is reflected in this budget today, we must have a plan for service restoration in place.
You are also considering a revised Capital Program. It won’t resolve every issue in the system or give the riders the system that they deserve, but the Program does allow critical projects to proceed. It’s an understatement to say that we are uncomfortable with using funds originally intended for pay as you go capital improvements far into the future to back additional debt that will not provide for capital needs beyond 2014. We recognize, however, that the choice may be between no workable Capital Program and more debt, and we understand the position advanced that this financing plan is the lesser of the evils.
We have to own up to the fact that we’ve pushed the envelope as far as is possible. We must now begin a candid conversation about how this State and City will pay for the capital needs of the system, recognizing the need for real resources and that there are no more tricks and one shot revenues available. We need to start this conversation now, because 2015 will be here soon, and we see many uses, but few sources of funds beyond the current Capital Program.
As this Board approves and submits a revised Capital Program to Albany, your action must be accompanied with resolve to find a rational method of financing the ongoing capital needs of this system and to continue to raise the issue until an acceptable solution is agreed upon. I know that we will be discussing the MTA’s capital funding needs with our elected representatives and I hope that you will be there with us.