Testimony of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA
Before the MTA Board on Proposed Reductions to LI Bus Service
Adams Playhouse, Hofstra University
March 23, 2011
Babylon, Bellmore, East Meadow, Elmont, Far Rockaway, Floral Park, Freeport, Great Neck, Hewlett, Lynbrook, Long Beach, Rockville Center, Roosevelt, Roosevelt Field and Green Acres Mall. These are just a few of the towns and shopping malls that will be affected economically with the proposed service cuts to Long Island Bus.
My name is Larry Rubinstein. I am a member of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, or PCAC, which also includes the Metro-North Rail Road Commuter Council and the New York City Transit Riders Council. Collectively, the three Councils represent over 8 million people who rely on public transportation provided by the MTA and on March 3rd the Councils voted to come here today and speak for 100,000 Long Islanders who have no formal voice – the riders of Long Island Bus. I am here today to express the PCAC’s strong opposition to the proposed service reduction and to challenge the Governor and MTA to develop a public transportation system that truly serves our region.
Are you truly aware of what your approval of the proposed cuts will do?
- Certainly you know you will be eliminating bus service to more than 15,000 weekday and weekend riders. 15,000 is a large number. And this is on top of those already affected by the 2010 service cuts – Bayville, Glen Cove, Hicksville, Old Bethpage, Plainview, Oyster Bay, Syosset, and Westbury
- Certainly you know you will be taking Able-Ride paratransit service away from almost one-fifth of its users, ending service across broad areas and stranding those with no other transportation options;
- Certainly you know you will be destroying a vital link to work, school, and health care for those with limited resources and with even more limited choices of alternative transportation, resulting in a looming disaster for Long Island’s economy and its quality of life.
Many of the Long Island Bus riders connect to the Long Island Rail Road, NYC Transit, and MTA Bus. They are members of our families, our friends, our co-workers and employees. They are the elderly and those unable to drive for reasons of health. They are a new generation of Long Islanders who no longer work a “nine to five” job or commute to Manhattan. They are students and young people traveling to first jobs. They are people strained by ever increasing gas prices. And anyone who thinks taxi service will be the alternative form of transportation for people impacted by these cuts hasn’t rode in a Long Island taxi very much.
How many members of this Board rely on Long Island Bus? How many members of this Board have even ever taken a scheduled ride on Long Island Bus?
Meeting Long Island Bus’ financial needs is a challenge, but it is not impossible. Certainly the $24 million dollar gap can be found inside a proposed state budget of $133 billion. Filling this gap is an investment to support the working people that are the bedrock of the economy of the region. In evaluating potential sources of funding, we should look first at sources originally dedicated to transit that have been diverted to other uses by our state elected officials.
We need a regional system that ensures mobility for riders and makes them the first instead of the last consideration. We need a comprehensive bus network that is coordinated with commuter rail and subway service and allows riders to move from place to place as seamlessly as possible.
The MTA was created to take a regional approach to transportation and instead, we are all now stuck in a cycle of service cuts, fare increases and ever growing limited transportation options. As riders’ representatives we demand that basic transit service be supported and not abandoned by the MTA Board.
As MTA Board members it is your duty to protect and advocate for the riders of the MTA system and to educate the State legislature and the Governor that the current structure is not working. It is your duty to find solutions to the challenges faced. Just say “No.” “No more cuts.”
The change needs to start now. We urge the MTA Board to reject the easy option of severe service cuts and act in the best interests of the region and state. The question we should be asking ourselves is not “what is the least that we can do,” but instead “what is the best that we can do.” Let’s not ruin the economy of Long Island by jumping to short term solutions, but let’s determine what is best for the bus riders, rail commuters and the businesses of Long Island, this region and New York State.