Although each of our councils represents a different part of the region, they all agree: riders want a safe, affordable and reliable way to get where they’re going. Unfortunately, significant underfunding and disinvestment have left the system – and the riders – in a precarious position. The bad news is that deficits are only projected to increase, with a projected $500 million deficit next year and $1 billion in 2022. Matters will only get worse if the proposed fare increases don’t go through as anticipated. Unless new, sustainable funding sources are identified, we’ll either see even more painful fare increases, unpalatable service cuts, or both. We cannot afford to go back to the “bad old days” and lose the valuable transit resources that keep the region competitive.
The good news is that it isn’t too late to stop the cycle of despair and disrepair, and turn the ship around. First and foremost is the need to create steady and sustainable funding for the MTA’s Operating and Capital Budgets, and have a structure in place to ensure that those funds are used in the most efficient and effective manner possible. At the end of the day, time, money and strong leadership will be key to taking the agency into the future.
As rider advocates, we are encouraged – and excited – by the plans that have been put forth by the current Presidents of the MTA Operating Agencies. Andy Byford’s Fast Forward plan is, quite frankly, the blueprint for the transit system that New Yorkers want to see. Phil Eng has developed a strong plan for the future in LIRR Forward, and we are glad to see incremental, yet real, improvements in the service and reliability of the railroad. Cathy Rinaldi and her team have created a good path forward with Metro-North Way Ahead to restore it to its position as a premiere railroad. It is critical that funding be identified to fund these plans to modernize signals, upgrade infrastructure and improve safety and accessibility across all of the MTA’s systems. Plans without funding are just dreams of things that could be. These improvements come with a price tag – we’ve all heard $40-60 billion for Fast Forward alone – and finding that funding is key to ensuring that NYC Transit, the LIRR and MNR continue to serve the region’s riders now, and into the future.
Read the full testimony here: NYS Transportation Budget Testimony