Testimony to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors

Testimony of Noah Budnick, Deputy Director

Transportation Alternatives opposes the proposed fare hikes.

We, like the riders, the MTA, the transit workers and our elected representatives, want a world class transit system in New York’s metropolitan region. It is the essence our economy, our mobility and our way of life. But, we are moving in the opposite direction.

New Yorkers just fell victim to the worst service cuts in a generation. Our fares went up last year, and our fares went up the year before. These cuts and hikes are the result of years of disinvestment in public transit by our state and city elected officials. Each of these fare hikes, and service cuts falls on the backs of the riders. This needs to change.

It’s an election year, service has been cut and the fare is going up!? Who represents the riding public? Who’s standing up for bus, subway and rail riders?

Today, Transportation Alternatives is officially launching our Rider Rebellion Campaign. We are putting the voice of the public in public transportation and demanding that the State Legislature and the candidates for governor commit to give our transit system the funding it needs to provide the best service for every rider. Our goal is to give the public a voice in Albany and achieve a reliable, clean, safe and dignified public transit ride.

The MTA’s financial problems are very real. We’re New Yorkers, and we believe in fairness, so we have to agree that everyone who benefits from a public good should contribute to it and pay to support it.

A lot of people who benefit from transit support the MTA, but it’s not enough. The most conspicuous beneficiaries who are not supporting the transit system are drivers. They benefit from the eight-and-a-half million car trips that are avoided everyday. They benefit from the eight-and-a-half million fewer competitors for parking spaces. What are drivers paying to support the system that provides these benefits?

Transit is tantamount to opportunity. Transit is access to jobs, education, health care, family and a high quality of life. Transit is clean air, less congestion and a livable city.

Our Rider Rebellion is grounded in the Transit Rider Bill of Rights, and we’re here to unveil it today. The bill of rights is supported by Transportation Alternatives, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, the Pratt Center for Community Development and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. We invite everyone here and your organizations to endorse the bill of rights too.

All transit riders have a right to:

  • Equally reliable, affordable and efficient transit
  • Fare hikes that are only enacted as a last resort
  • A more accessible transit system
  • Helpful, courteous service from MTA employees
  • Transparent and easy-to-use lines of communication between riders and the MTA
  • A minimum of one transit worker and one transit rider as voting members of the MTA Board of Directors

Our full ten point Transit Rider Bill of Rights proposes reasonable guarantees to all riders. These are necessary promises to ensure the health of the subway, bus and rail system we all rely on.

Already 10,000 people have signed the Transit Riders Bill of Rights.

We invite you, the MTA and the unions, to sign the bill of rights. The riders are your allies. We fought for Dick Ravitch’s plan to fund the transit system. We fought for cameras to enforce our bus lanes.

We invite elected officials and candidates to stand up for transit. We invite them to sign the Transit Riders Bill of Rights because voters are their truest allies.

When they sign, we’ll ask them to commit to returning the $130million of dedicated transit funding they’ve taken from us, the users of the system, and from you the workers and from you the managers, the people who have to run the system.

We need to work together and get the system back on track. The MTA has realized $750 million in savings from the cuts they've made to their bureaucracy. The agency is doing a lot to tighten its belt in short order.

I’m not defending the MTA, but we have to live with it, just like we have to live with other bureaucracies that keep the lights on, the water clean, keep us safe and give us the opportunities for a high quality of life.

Transportation Alternatives’ Rider Rebellion is a growing coalition of public transit riders who are joining together and telling our state and city elected officials once and for all that they need to stand up for riders and find new sources of stable, long-term transit funding.

We’re asking everyone here to sign the Transit Rider Bill of Rights right now and join the Rider Rebellion: text REBEL to 30644. You’ll find out about events and actions you can take to take back our transit system.

Join us at our Vote Transit rally at the end of October in Union Square. Join Transportation Alternatives’ Rider Rebellion campaign and tell the elected officials in Albany that our transit system needs stable funding. We need to make sure they represent all of us and support transit. Help us put the “public” back in public transit.