Testimony of Lindsey Lusher Shute, Director of Environmental Campaigns, before the Joint Public Hearing New York State Senate

Senator Martin Malave Dilan, Chair Corporations, Authorities and Commissions
Senator Bill Perkins, Chair Finance
Senator Carl Kruger, Chair
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building, 8th Floor Conference Room
163 West 125th Street, New York, New York
10:00 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.

Good afternoon. My name is Lindsey Lusher Shute and I am the Director of Environmental Campaigns at Transportation Alternatives. Transportation Alternatives is a 35-year-old non-profit organization that works on behalf of pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders in New York City. We have 7,500 dues-paying members and it's from their perspective that I'd like to address you today.

The MTA is a massive agency, and it is crucial to the prosperity and quality of life the city, the state and the region. While the Authority estimates that it will need tens of billions of dollars more to keep the system in a state of good repair and to expand to meet our region's growing needs, there is one critical piece of its operations that the agency cannot put a price on—and that is trust. Though we depend on the MTA every single day, most New Yorkers do not trust the MTA. And after this spring, we're well aware that the Legislature doesn't either.

Before you is an opportunity to rebuild your and the public's trust in the Agency and to strengthen the MTA's commitment to their customers.

Trust is so important because it emboldens us with confidence. When New Yorkers and their leaders at each and every level of government can see that their tax dollars are being spent wisely, they see the return on their investment and understand that it was money well spent. If people believe that their money is being wasted, then it's hard to ask them to pay more. This scenario was never more evident than just a few months back, when all of you were asked to trust the MTA and to spend more of your constituents' dollars on a massive bailout package. The agency's need was clear and the economic shortfalls beyond reproach -- but you still hesitated to help.

Jay Walder, a native New Yorker and extremely qualified transportation professional, is committed to earning back the riders' trust--and that includes all of you, the members of the New York State Legislature. At the press conference when his nomination was announced, Mr. Walder declared that "taxpayers and [the] riding public need to understand and believe they are getting value for money in the way we operate the trains, buses, bridges and tunnels, and in the way we undertake the massive capital investments that are underway." We agree and feel confident that Mr. Walder will bring the necessary skills and experience to restore this agency's reputation in the public mind.

We urge that you confirm Mr. Walder without delay and let him get to work. The MTA needs leadership now to help the agency responsibly and sustainably finance and carry-out its ambitious and important 20-year Capital Program. The Capital plan will help keep our subways in good repair and introduce innovations like Bus Rapid Transit that will greatly enhance our public transportation network. Our members in Brooklyn are particularly excited about Bus Rapid Transit there because it will finally create a reliable and fast link between North and South Brooklyn neighborhoods, and our members on the East Side of Manhattan are looking forward to Bus Rapid Transit because it will provide much needed relief on the overcrowded 4/5/6 line and quick and efficient bus travel on 1st and 2nd Avenues.

Finally, we ask that each of you use this moment of change to redefine your relationship with the agency -- and this goes beyond passing new legislation. We ask that members of the Legislature come to understand the incredible challenges that this agency faces. We ask you to secure sustainable long term funding that will maintain the health of our public transportation network, and we ask that you help the MTA in its quest to restore integrity. There's a time and place for criticism, but vilifying the agency and, by extension, the hard working employees who are proud to keep New York moving each and every day, will certainly foreclose any window we might have to build something better.

Thank you for holding these hearings and, as you've requested of the MTA, incorporating the public's input into your decision making process.

Secondary Title
Standing Committees on Transportation