Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Paul Steely White, and I am the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.
First, I’d like to congratulate you, Mr. Lhota, on your nomination as Chair of the MTA. Best of luck with your confirmation process.
The importance of the Capital Plan cannot be understated. It is full of infrastructure improvements and expansion projects that are critical for a system that is more than a century old and carries more than 8 million riders on a given weekday. We strongly support this plan because we know how vital it is for the riders, the city and the state. However, we have grave concerns with how you plan to finance the plan, since riders will have to shoulder the lion’s share of the debt even though they are just one of many groups that benefit from, and traditionally invest in, the regional public transit system.
State elected official’s theft of dedicated transit funding, gutting of the payroll mobility tax and continual failure to find stable revenues for the MTA has resulted in:
• A capital plan that is paid for by unsustainable borrowing and debt—the largest in MTA history
• The downgrade of MTA’s bond rating, which increases the cost of borrowing
• Ever-growing debt service that eats into the operating budget and takes reliable service and affordable fares away from riders, and
• An eroding fiscal foundation for the public transit system that makes New York City’s economy—and therefore the state’s economy—possible.
New York’s governor sets our state’s transportation and transit priorities and, with the legislature, devises its funding plans. The MTA board must bring our state leaders back to the table to make Governor Cuomo’s promise to restore transit funding a lasting one and solve our funding crisis.
In recent years, state and city elected officials, the MTA, advocates and riders have had serious discussions about how to responsibly, equitably and sustainably fund our transit system and have come up with many ideas including congestion pricing, East River Bridge tolls, the Ravitch Plan to name a few.
These are all workable solutions. We just need responsible leadership to implement one.
Today, we call on you, Mr. Lhota, to stand up with the MTA board and fight for transit riders and for the future of our city and state. We have a long-term vision for our transit system’s infrastructure, yet we are in desperate need of financial foresight. We need you to work with the Governor and Albany leadership to craft a forward thinking funding strategy, where everyone invests in the system’s financing because, as everyone knows, it adds value to everything we do here in New York.