New York City transit riders are done waiting for promised improvements to the ailing subway system and are demanding improvements immediately.
New York State legislators alongside transit advocates rallied at the state capitol earlier today for a progressive, sustainable funding source and credible long-term plan to fix the subway.
The group called on Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appoints Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) leadership and many board members, to push a budget through the state legislature that provides the funding required to fix the struggling subway and bus system.
Last month, Cuomo released a preliminary funding plan that included charging the city for the subway improvements. The governor’s appointed Fix NYC panel proposed creating a congestion zone and tolling drivers entering the Manhattan Central Business District (MCBD).
The proposed charge would raise $1.5 billion annually — the amount the MTA agrees must be raised to fix the system — and reduce congestion by 20%, a boon for now beleaguered bus riders as well.
Assemblymember Michael DenDekker (D-Woodside, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst) said the city’s subway system not only needs an adequate amount of funding for repairs and maintenance, but a steady and dependable stream of recurring capital and operational funds to secure its safe operation.
“With the state that our subways are in, a major influx of revenue and investment is needed immediately. Riders in the outer boroughs need more bus routes and an increased frequency on established lines. It is also of paramount importance, that fares remain at the current rate and no increase even be considered at this time. I stand with all of my constituents as well as members of the Riders Alliance to demand the funding to fix our transportation system,” said DenDekker.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who originally came out against the idea in favor of a new “millionaires Tax” tax on the city’s highest earners with the riase in revenue earmarked for transit, has also warmed a bit to the congestion pricing plan.
“This plan certainly shows improvement over previous plans we’ve seen,” de Blasio said during a radio appearance on WNYC, calling it “definitely a step in the right direction.”
Data from the Community Service Society showed that at most 2% of low-income commuters from the outer boroughs would pay the congestion pricing charge, and according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, car commuters to Manhattan are few in number and wealthy compared with transit commuters.
Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside) characterized the city’s mass transit system being at a critical juncture due to years of neglect and underfunding. ”
Now that there is a broad consensus on the need for additional resources, we cannot squander this opportunity to achieve a real solution. The budget process cannot be allowed to conclude without a sustainable and dedicated funding stream for our subways and buses,” Gianaris added.
“Clearly, there is an urgent need to fix and modernize the subway system. The system is currently plagued with delays and breakdowns, and the only viable solution is to make a serious and consistent investment. Straphangers deserve a reliable system and not another ‘summer of hell’ that can transform itself into years of chaos. I support Riders Alliance’s plan calling for sustainable revenues to give riders the subway system they deserve,” said State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside).
As someone who has used mass transit for most of my life, I know how important reliable bus service can be and I support making it more efficient by updating and improving technology to Fix the Subway,” said State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D- South Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Rosedale, Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Springfield Gardens, most of the Rockaways). “I support the Riders Alliance in its efforts to prevent transit breakdowns and commuter headaches and ensure that New Yorkers have the best mass transit experience possible at an affordable price.”