Transit Riders and Legislators Rally in Albany, Demand Funds to Fix the Subway in This Year's State Budget
Albany, NY – With widespread transit delays continuing, grassroots subway and bus riders rallied at the state capitol on Monday with senators and assembly members for a progressive, sustainable funding source and credible long-term plan to fix the subway. On the steps outside the Assembly Chamber, subway and bus riders wore green t-shirts and carried signs including “Fix the Subway” and “Fund Public Transit.” Speakers demanded that Governor Andrew Cuomo lead and include long-term transit funding in this year's state budget.
Today, advocates called on Governor Cuomo, who appoints MTA leadership and many MTA board members, to push a budget through the legislature in Albany that provides the funding required to fix our subway and bus system. The governor, who proposes the state’s annual budget, released a preliminary version without long-term transit funding last month. Last year however, amid the ongoing crisis, the governor took responsibility for the subway by declaring a state of emergency, appointing new leadership and embarking on a series of important short-term fixes. Continued meltdowns and scrambled commutes this winter demonstrate however that massive upgrades are needs for the system’s long-term stabilization and health. These fixes will require billions of dollars from a new revenue source.
The governor’s appointed Fix NYC panel last month proposed creating a congestion zone and tolling drivers entering the Manhattan Central Business District. The proposed charge would raise $1.5 billion annually – the amount the MTA agrees must be raised to fix the system – and reduce congestion by 20%, a boon for now beleaguered bus riders as well. It is now up to the governor to put these recommendations into his budget proposal now before the legislature.
Data from the Community Service Society showed that at most 2% of low-income commuters from the outer boroughs would pay the congestion pricing charge, and according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, car commuters to Manhattan are few in number and wealthy compared with transit commuters.
Last year, subway delays were triple what they were five years earlier. With barely 65% of trains completing their routes on time, the system is failing New Yorkers and ranks dead last for on time arrivals among major transit systems worldwide. Getting subways moving again will require large scale modernization of a signal system dependent on 1930s technology and the acquisition of new modern subway cars to handle a crush of riders larger than any save when US troops returned to the city after World War II.
Rebecca Bailin, Campaign Manager at the Riders Alliance, said,"This budget season, Governor Cuomo needs to end the transit crisis that is undermining New Yorkers' ability to get around the city. Subway riders are beyond tired of packed subway cars. Signal problems, track malfunctions and tunnel fires slow commutes, cause sick people to miss doctors appointments and parents their children's school events. Only a substantial infusion of new revenue from a sustainable, progressive source can modernize the subway signal system and purchase new subway cars."
Sharon Bardales, Riders Alliance member from Sedgwick in the Bronx, said, "I'm a college student who commutes to class by subway. Not only is it difficult to afford my MetroCard, but I can't even rely on the subways to get to my classes on time. When I'm late or miss class entirely due to a delay, which happens too often, it affects my grades. And as a struggling New Yorker, I can't afford to do badly in school. I, like many New Yorkers, are desperate for a solution to our transit crisis. I am counting on Governor Cuomo and our Assembly Members and Senators to make sure to pass a budget this year that will provide the MTA with enough funds to finally fix our subways and buses."
Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, said, “The MTA is utilized by millions of New Yorkers, including many of my constituents who rely on a combination of Metro North and the Subway. The current level of delay and disruption experienced by straphangers and commuter train riders doesn’t just inconvenience individuals; it impacts our regional economy in terms of lost productivity time. We need to come together to provide adequate, sustainable funding to finally address infrastructure problems that have been decades in the making.”
Assemblymember Anthony D’Urso said, “The New York City subway system is the lifeblood of the city. People living, working, visiting and doing business in NYC rely on the subways to get to where they are going. It is an integral and crucial part of the city. The subways need to be efficient, functional, clean, and dependable.”
Assemblymember Michael Montesano said, “In a world where technology is making leaps and bounds, it is unacceptable for New York City’s subway system to still be operating with such outdated signal technology and subway cars. This is a system millions of people use daily to get to work, school, run errands and visit destinations around the city, because the alternatives aren’t viable for them. It should be a top priority to update the system and keep it running properly. With an already high population living in the five boroughs, which increases every year, we must be providing adequate, up-to-date transportation services so residents are able to live their lives at their own pace.”
Assemblymember Carmen Arroyo said, “The improvement of the subway system is the improvement of the city of New York.”
Assemblymember Michael Blake said, “How may we expect for Bronxites and New Yorkers to realize their dreams if we can't get to them on time or without a struggle? As I travel around the world and ride on high speed rail that have immaculate schedule precision and within much cleaner stations, it is appalling that the MTA infrastructure has not arrived at the times of the 21st century. With February 12th being the 50th anniversary of the Memphis Sanitation Strike, we must realize that the fight for quality living is continual and not a privilege, but, it is a right that we demand so that people can get to and from work, school and the opportunities afforded to all of us. It is time to move in the right direction without delay to continue #BuildingABetterBronx and a bolder New York City.”
Assemblymember Robert Carroll said, “With some of the oldest actively running train cars in the world and a signaling system that uses 19th Century technology, we have seen subway delays more than triple over the past 5 years. This impacts the lives of millions of New Yorkers while costing the city billions of dollars every year. The subway system is in crisis. If we’re going to fix the MTA and bring the system into the 21st century the State must create a plan that provides a dedicated revenue stream to the MTA of at least $1.5 billion annually. Fixing and funding the subway must be our top priority and the only way that will happen is if we get a budget that includes a plan similar to the Fix NYC Advisory panel proposal.”
Assemblymember Michael DenDekker said, “The New York City subway system not only needs an adequate amount of funding for repairs and maintenance, but a steady and dependable stream of recurring capital and operational funds to secure its safe operation. With the state that our subways are in, a major influx of revenue and investment is needed immediately. Riders in the outer boroughs need more bus routes and an increased frequency on established lines. It is also of paramount importance, that fares remain at the current rate and no increase even be considered at this time. I stand with all of my constituents as well as members of the Riders Alliance to demand the funding to fix our transportation system.”
Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz said, "Our subway system is in dire need of repairs and upgrades, from new signals and train cars to station improvements for ADA compliance. This is going to require new dedicated and sustainable revenue sources drawn from a broad base of those who benefit from a high quality mass transit system. We legislators have to consider each and every proposal that is put forward to fund the subway, and I hope to support an idea that is both progressive in nature and ensures that everyone is paying their fair share."
Assemblymember Richard Gottfried said, “Mass transit ridership in New York City at an all-time high. With a system plagued by delays and overcrowding, we need to be investing more, not less, in the mass transit that keeps the metropolitan region and its economy moving.”
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis said, “New York City's transit system is crumbling, overcrowded and experiences 70,000 delays a month leaving commuters without a reliable public transportation option to get to where they need to go. It is long past time that the city and state come together to identify a reliable revenue stream so the MTA can make improvements to its outdated signal system and infrastructure. I am committed to working with colleagues and advocates to develop a plan to make these necessary investments that can no longer wait.”
Assemblymember Felix Ortiz said, “It’s time to help working families, seniors and students catch a break. Nobody should have to choose between a meal and a MetroCard. Every day, New Yorkers take 2.5 million bus rides. Bus service is a vital element of New York City’s public transportation network, reaching neighborhoods with limited access to subways and often serving older, lower-income populations. We must continue to fight to extend subway service into Red Hook’s “transportation desert” and update existing subway stations with elevators that allow accessibility for all.”
Assemblymember Dan Quart said, "New Yorkers need a subway system that works, and right now we are not getting what we deserve. These problems were not created overnight and they will not be solved overnight, but quick fixes and Band-Aids are not acceptable. We must have an honest assessment of the situation, think bigger in terms of solutions, and get to work to improve our subways.”
Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal said, “New York City is renowned the world over as a home of many diverse cultures, industries and opportunities. The engine behind our vibrancy and activity is our mass transportation system. But, ‘the city that never sleeps’, we will only go as far as our buses and subways will take us. We need immediate and long term investment in our subway system, and I am eager to work with advocates, my colleagues and New Yorkers to devise a plan to keep us moving.”
Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda said, “I represent a district whose residents largely depend on bus and subway transportation to get to work and otherwise get around. The current state of public transit in New York City is an embarrassment, and one that should have been intelligently addressed years ago. Whether the solution to fixing the problem is through some form of congestion pricing that does not hurt outer-borough residents or through some other financial source, this issue should be at the top of the priority list for all government bodies - city, state and federal - as a true state of emergency.”
Assemblymember Latrice Walker said, “New York City is defined by its subway system, which is utilized by millions of riders each day. New Yorkers rely on the subway system to be reliable, timely and modernized. New York City is one the leading cities in the country, yet we are plagued by a prehistoric subway system. It has to be fixed.”
Senator Marisol Alcantara said, "The MTA is in crisis, and as the representative of a district that relies on mass transit, I firmly believe that New York City and New York State leaders need to work together to find solutions to this crisis. The steps already taken by new NYCT chief Andy Byford and by MTA head Joe Lhota have begun to bear fruit, but we need to continue to invest in the system to prevent its decay and collapse."
Senator Jamaal Bailey said, "The New York City subway system is outdated and in desperate need for repair. I stand with Riders Alliance in their fight to advocate for a sustainable revenue amount to fix the subways. Over the past couple of years, New Yorkers have felt frustrated with the number of delays and signal problems they experience when riding the trains. As one of the greatest cities in the world, our subway system should reflect and meet that standard."
Senator Martin Malavé Dilan said, “We have on the table viable options to ensure necessary revenues are directed to the city transit system. We can debate the better options, as we should. We can argue about fairness, which is reasonable. What we can’t do is continue to avoid the issue all together. We need to make repairs, and we need to address the long-standing culture that has passed them off and put us in the predicament we are in today. Not investing is costing us money, and not just the city. What people have to understand is that the city transit system is the heart of a social and economic metropolis that accounts for 23 percent of the nation’s economic activity. Everyone has a stake in city transit.”
Senator Michael Gianaris said, “Our mass transit system is at a critical juncture due to years of neglect and underfunding. Now that there is a broad consensus on the need for additional resources, we cannot squander this opportunity to achieve a real solution. The budget process cannot be allowed to conclude without a sustainable and dedicated funding stream for our subways and buses.”
Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “We must pursue the common-sense solutions we need to tackle the failings of our subway system. We know these solutions have broad public support. The maintenance, reliability, safety, and sustainability of our subway system requires State and the City investment. The millions of subway riders who depend on this critical pillar of mass transit are counting on us to act. I know this Rally to Fix and Fund the Subway sends the clear message to leadership at all levels of government that the time to act is now.”
Senator Liz Krueger said, “Millions of hard-working New Yorkers rely on the subway every day. It is the lifeblood of the most dynamic city in America, and it is falling apart. We cannot allow this daily crisis to continue. Now is the time to pass a budget that provides a fair and sustainable funding source to fix the subway and give New Yorkers the world-class transit system we deserve.”
Senator Jose Peralta said, “Clearly, there is an urgent need to fix and modernize the subway system. The system is currently plagued with delays and breakdowns, and the only viable solution is to make a serious and consistent investment. Straphangers deserve a reliable system and not another ‘summer of hell’ that can transform itself into years of chaos. I support Riders Alliance’s plan calling for sustainable revenues to give riders the subway system they deserve.”
Senator Gustavo Rivera said, "Broken trains, overcrowding, outdated technology and inconsistent funding have made train delays a common occurrence for commuters. It is no secret that there is a dire need to heavily invest in updating the MTA's dilapidated infrastructure and completely overhaul the system. New Yorkers can no longer afford to be left stranded while the financial responsibility for the MTA continues to be shifted from one party to the next. I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to ensure we provide adequate funding in this year's budget to truly fix our public transportation system."
Senator James Sanders Jr. said, “As someone who has used mass transit for most of my life, I know how important reliable bus service can be and I support making it more efficient by updating and improving technology to Fix the Subway. I support the Riders Alliance in its efforts to prevent transit breakdowns and commuter headaches and ensure that New Yorkers have the best mass transit experience possible at an affordable price.”