Statement of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA
Before the MTA Board
July 28, 2010
I am William Henderson, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. The PCAC is composed of the members of three riders’ councils established by the State legislature in 1981 and addresses regional issues as well as coordinating the work of the councils.
First, I want to take a moment to commend this Board and the senior staff of the MTA and agencies for the great efforts that you have made over the past eight months to put the MTA’s fiscal house in order. It’s not something we say often, and whether we agree or disagree, our members and staff greatly appreciates the work that you do.
The way that we fund transit in this region is based on a unique understanding among those representing a range of interests that transit provides substantial benefits to parties other than the people who ride it. The benefits to riders are clear, and riders pay for those benefits through fares that make up the highest percentage of the cost of operation of any major transit system in the nation. What sets us apart, however, is that we also acknowledge the value that a functioning transit system creates for drivers, for business and industry, and for the owners of real property. It’s a truism, but one worth repeating that this region simply could not function without a working transit system.
Last spring we believed that we had an arrangement that was based on an equitable division of responsibility between those benefited by transit. More recently, however, riders are increasingly feeling that while others fail to act or even withdraw funding, they are being held to this deal and being forced to shoulder an ever larger burden through service cuts and fare increases. Further, some of the proposals that have been advanced, such as restrictions on time based MetroCards and commuter rail tickets, threaten to change riders’ view of transit as a first option for moving around the region.
The PCAC and its Councils have consistently supported fare policy that includes regular moderate increases to maintain the careful balance between the various MTA funding sources. While we recognize that efforts have been made to reduce the impact of the present fare increase proposals on those least able to afford them, we cannot tolerate a situation where riders carry an ever larger share of burden of supporting this system. We recognize that a fare increase may be a necessary evil, but in the longer run, any MTA financial plan must aim to restore balance between what is provided and what is received by the beneficiaries of the transit system.