StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Fixing NYC's Mass Transit System

StreetsPAC submitted the following testimony today to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation, in regard to its oversight hearing on fixing New York City's transit system:

We add our voice today to the chorus of calls for immediate and far-reaching action to fix New York City’s buses and subways.

As Monday morning’s subway meltdown demonstrated all too clearly, we have far too little to show for the almost year and a half since Governor Cuomo declared the subways in a “state of emergency” and the MTA announced the Subway Action Plan. New Yorkers continue to be saddled with miserable commutes. The drop in ridership as people seek alternatives to stalled trains and crawling buses means less fare-box revenue, and in turn, worsening congestion. Catch-up work leaves numerous lines out of commission every weekend.

The proposed Fast Forward plan holds promise, but until funding sources are laid out in detail, it’s hard to feel that there’s anything other than train traffic ahead. Despite lots of talk, we’ve yet to see any truly meaningful steps toward congestion pricing, which could begin to put a real dent in the MTA’s funding gap. We’re in a full-blown crisis, and it is existential.

Fixing this critical threat to New York City’s economic health demands decisive action. Governor Cuomo and the legislature must pass, and begin implementation of, a full-blown congestion-pricing plan first thing in 2019. The billion-dollars plus in annual revenue that such a plan would yield can be bonded in order to service some $20 billion in capital investment, which will go a long way to modernizing the subway system’s ancient signaling. It will also help speed up buses by reducing driving, especially into Manhattan’s core.

Making sure that a portion of the revenue generated by congestion pricing is invested immediately in projects that extend new service to transit deserts will help accommodate people who will choose to leave their cars at home. In turn, City Hall can take significant steps to help improve bus service, by ratcheting up the roll out of Select Bus Service, dedicating more exclusive street space to buses, making sure bus-only lanes are kept clear, and giving buses signal priority.

Most of all, fixing the MTA will require resolute political will. Some elected officials have said they oppose congestion pricing because it won’t completely solve the MTA’s funding problem on its own, which is a bit like declining chemotherapy because your cancer treatment also requires radiation therapy. No, congestion pricing alone won’t fix everything, but it’s a critical piece of a comprehensive solution to funding transit.

Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the Assembly and State Senate must act now to outline a plan that includes all the details of how the MTA’s budget needs will be met. We must be willing to do what it takes to fix our subways and buses – the future of New York City depends on it.

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StreetsPAC supports candidates for public office who will champion Safe, Complete and Livable Streets.