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Today the Straphangers
Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, Transport Workers Union Local 100,
Tri-State Transportation Campaign, along other members of the Save Mass Transit
Coalition and leading elected officials, rallied outside Governor Pataki’s
Manhattan office urging him to intervene on behalf of millions of daily transit
riders and direct his Metropolitan Transportation Authority board
representatives to oppose Thursday’s planned vote to raise fares and cut
service. The Governor controls the majority of votes on the board. Mayor
Bloomberg has directed his representatives to vote no.
The rally came two days before
the Pataki-controlled MTA plans to vote on a second round of fare increases and
service cuts in two years and the same day the New York City Transit Committee
was unable to garner enough votes to recommend the cuts as proposed to the full
MTA board. The committee vote was four to four. The board vote is set for
Thursday, December 16th at MTA headquarters (347 Madison Avenue, 5th floor).
The groups noted that the MTA
could drop all proposed fare hike and service cuts proposals by using all the
increased $300 million in funds coming from new projections, rather than place
the bulk of it in a proposed $200 million reserve fund. The MTA’s plan would be
a one-shot that would do nothing to address the agency’s long-term deficit. The
MTA’s own projections show 2004 ending with a $639 million surplus. While the
groups were encouraged by today’s announcement to delay reductions in bus
service, but they noted the cuts still could be implemented at any time.
Under the MTA’s plan, the cost
of a 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCard could jump from $70 to $76, a 7-day card
could go from $20 to $24 and express buses from $4 to $5. Proposed service cuts
include closing 164 station booths, reducing non-rush hour bus service and
eliminating conductors from two subway lines.
Under the hike, a 7-day
MetroCard user would pay an extra $150 per year in transit fares. “To the
well-paid MTA board members, an extra $150 per year is no big deal," said Paul
S. White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “But to the workers
who keep New York City’s economy running, the pain will be very real."
The groups also called on the
Governor to fund transit for the long-haul, noting the MTA will be seeking
approval of it’s $17 billion Capital program in the spring. The MTA is facing an
operating deficit of over $1 billion in 2006 due to skyrocketing debt service –
a gap that exists because New York State under Governor Pataki has forced the
MTA to rely heavily on borrowing backed by its operating budget in the last
decade to rebuild the transit system.
Jon Orcutt of the Tri-State
Transportation Campaign said, “The MTA’s operating deficits are due to Governor
Pataki’s past neglect which forced the MTA into massive borrowing. Now,
ballooning debt threatens the system with 70’s style disrepair unless he steps
up to the plate and finds real revenue."
"The Governor has cut hundreds
of millions of dollars in MTA operating and capital costs, and now he wants
straphangers to pay for it. A fare increase is a Pataki tax increase on working
New Yorkers," said Congressman Anthony Weiner.
“The MTA’s financial problems
are structural and deeper than any fare hike can fix. By continuing to look to
the riders to pay for their monetary mismanagement, the Governor is shirking his
political duty to find the new revenue that is required to fix the problem,"
said Neysa Pranger, Campaign Coordinator for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.
Mayor Bloomberg declined to
attend the event. “The Mayor has proved himself a force when he decides to take
up an issue. We’ve seen his muscle on the smoking ban and property taxes. If the
Mayor wanted to show real leadership he would do more than just direct his board
representatives to vote no Thursday, he would pick up the phone, call Governor
Pataki and work with him to find more funding for transit. More funding that
doesn’t include harmful fare hikes and service cuts," said Pranger.
Mayor Bloomberg has also cut $90 million in city aid to the MTA’s current
five-year rebuilding plan. The city is now making the smallest contribution to
fixing the subways in at least 25 years. The Mayor also wants the MTA to hand
over the valuable land the MTA owns on Manhattan’s West Side and in Brooklyn at
a bargain basement price.
“The Straphangers of this City
provide an enormous amount of economic support day-in and day-out for this City
and State. It's time for the leadership of New York to step up for the everyday
New Yorker and fight for their best interests," said New York City Council
Speaker Gifford Miller.
The service cuts also
jeopardize rider safety and are unfair to transit workers. “The MTA’s proposed
budget means danger to riders’ safety, danger to the well being of mass transit,
and danger to the future of New York’s economy. The Governor should shoulder his
responsibility, block approval of this budget, and find new revenue sources to
end this chronic crisis." Roger Toussaint, President of Local 100 of the
Transport Workers Union.
Advocates noted a failure to
act to fund transit for the long haul may have dire consequences for riders “The
situation confronting the MTA is extraordinary – a threatened slide back to the
decay of the 1970’s requires the Governor demonstrate leadership and courage in
order to address the problems faced by the MTA without hurting the people who
use our subways, buses, bridges and tunnels," said Manhattan Borough President
C. Virginia Fields.
Transportation Alternatives 127 West 26th Street, Suite 1002
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-629-8080 Fax: 212-629-8334