Advocates charge Cuomo shortchanging transit system

January 27, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new budget proposal does not provide additional funding for the MTA’s capital program, according to transit advocates. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
Share this:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making empty promises when it comes to the city’s buses and subways, transit advocates are charging.

The transit advocacy groups Riders Alliance, Straphangers Campaign and Tri-State Transportation Campaign are sounding the alarm over what their leaders say is a lack of follow-through by the governor, who had promised to provide additional funds for the New York City transit system.

Leaders of the three organizations issued a joint statement on Jan. 26 charging that Cuomo’s 2016-17 executive budget contains no new money for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) capital program, despite the fact that Cuomo visited the Transit Museum earlier this month to announce plans to modernize the MTA with billions of dollars of investment.

For example, the governor’s budget fails to fill a remaining $10 billion gap in the MTA’s five-year capital program, according to transit advocates.

If the funding does not materialize, it could lead to a halt of MTA plans to upgrade subway and bus equipment in the coming years, advocates charged.

In addition, if the MTA has to borrow money to help cover the costs, it could lead to fare hikes and service reductions for riders, the advocates said.

“Gov. Cuomo promised the world to transit riders, but all he is delivering is another IOU. After all these promises, transit riders assumed there would be cash in the budget, but it turns out it’s just another promise,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance.

“The riding public deserves a transparent, clearly delineated and progressive plan for funding the MTA capital program and that has not yet been made available,” said Elena Conte, director of policy for the Pratt Center for Community Development.

Cuomo visited the New York Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn on Jan. 8 and outlined a plan for new subway cars with USB chargers, new buses with Wi-Fi and new signal systems that would allow more trains to run. All the items are in the MTA’s capital program, which has yet to be approved by the state Legislature.

In the actual budget that the governor released following his State of the State Address, he proposes no new funds toward the $7.3 billion remaining in the state’s previous commitment to fund the MTA’s capital plan, according to transit advocates.

“Delays already plague the bus, subway and rail systems. Delayed investment into the MTA 2015-2019 capital program signals an alarm that funding is far from secure for the nation’s most heavily used transit network,” said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. 

Gene Russianoff of the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign charged that the governor “has cynically chosen to respond with a plan that’s opaque, unclear and a textbook exercise in one level of government trying to offload its responsibilities on another.”

Morris Peters, a spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget, said the governor is making good on his commitment.

“The governor put unambiguous and iron-clad language in the budget to make good on his commitment to provide $8.3 billion towards the MTA’s capital plan,” Peters told the Brooklyn Eagle via email on Jan. 27. 

In addition, there is legislation pending that would make the state’s commitment to funding the MTA a matter of law and would provide that state funds would be available whenever the MTA needs it, officials said.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment