Assemblymember Shelley Mayer and Tri-State Transportation Campaign Host a Forum on the Future of Suburban Public Transportation

December 15, 2016

John Raskin, Executive Director, Riders Alliance; Nadine Lemmon, Director, New York & Federal Policy, Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Assemblymember Shelley Mayer; Thomas Zambito, Investigative Reporter, The Journal News; and Henry Mehmet Gulergun, President, Student Government Association, Westchester Community College. Laura Rossi, Executive Director, Westchester Community Foundation served as moderator.

Yonkers, NY On Wednesday evening at Purchase College Center for Community and Culture (PC4) in Yonkers, Assemblymember Shelley Mayer and Tri-State Transportation Campaign hosted and participated in a forum on the future of suburban public transportation. The forum stressed the need for increased attention to and funding for public transit in suburban communities. A combination of increased demand and historical inattention to these systems calls for a renewed commitment to public bus and train in communities like Westchester County.

The panel discussion included Assemblymember Shelley Mayer; Nadine Lemmon, Director, New York & Federal Policy, Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Laura Rossi, Executive Director, Westchester Community Foundation; John Raskin, Executive Director, Riders Alliance; Thomas Zambito, Investigative Reporter, The Journal News; and Henry Mehmet Gulergun, President, Student Government Association, Westchester Community College. The forum underscored that while suburban economic growth and vibrancy are dependent upon a strong public transportation network, including rail and bus lines, the systems do not adequately serve the needs of the public or the economy. While fares and ridership increase, the systems struggle to maintain and increase service, making it difficult for students to attend classes, employees to work late shifts, and employers to maintain employees.

"Yonkers residents are among Westchester residents most dependent upon Bee Line and Metro North to get to work and doctors' appointments, and participate in the economy and civic life," said Assemblymember Mayer. "While riders are repeatedly asked to pay more in fares, they do not see commensurate improvement in service. We must do more to improve these engines of our economy, and this forum was an important step in learning about riders' challenges and opportunities for advocacy."

Bee-Line bus ridership, which is one of the primary bus systems in the country, increased 3.5% between 2011 and 2013, and according to Metro-North Railroad's (MNR) 2015 ridership report, MNR's 2015 ridership was 86.6 million, which was a 1.6% increase above 2014. MNR is the second largest commuter railroad in the nation.

"Enabling the public to get where they want to go, when they want to go is the key to a successful and thriving Hudson Valley economy. Whether you're getting around by car, bus, train, walking or biking, your transportation options need to be safe, reliable and affordable," said Nadine Lemmon, Director, New York & Federal Policy, Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "There is ample room for improvement here in the suburbs, and the time is now for elected leaders and the public to team up and find solutions to improve our public transit systems. Thank you to Assemblywoman Mayer for hosting this forum, and getting the conversation going."

Laura Rossi, Executive Director, Westchester Community Foundation said, "There is a renewed focus on the importance of investing in transportation infrastructure. While federal priorities remain uncertain, this forum provided an important opportunity to highlight the need for state-of-the-art mass transit systems that serve our community and economy."

"Public transit is the lifeblood of the entire downstate region, and it should be a top priority of our elected leaders to provide safe, reliable and comprehensive transportation so that everyone can get around. I appreciate Assembly Member Mayer's leadership in focusing public attention on the issue. The only way we will solve these problems is by bringing together people who care about improving transit for the whole community, and this forum is an important step in that process," said John Raskin, Executive Director, Riders Alliance.

Thomas Zambito, Investigative Reporter, The Journal News said, "Metro-North is facing a host of systemic challenges after a series of mishaps that claimed the lives of passengers and workers. I enjoyed discussing some of those challenges and other issues regarding one of the nation's busiest commuter rails."

Henry Mehmet Gulergun, President Student Government Association, Westchester Community College, said, "I think this is a great opportunity for dialogue on this important issue facing our community. As the representative for the over 13,000 students at Westchester Community College, many of whom take the public bus, I am proud to advocate for more adequate public transportation on their behalf."

One of the outcomes of the forum was a commitment to work to organize transit advocates in Westchester.