Riders Alliance holds Albany rally for transit fix-up funds

February 13, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Robert Carroll tells protesters in Albany that the state must get serious about solving New York City’s transit problems. Photo by Sonia Isard/Riders Alliance
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Members of the Riders Alliance who have held several protest demonstrations over the past few months to demand that elected officials fix the city’s deteriorating transit system, took their case directly to state lawmakers by holding a rally in Albany. 

Wearing green T-shirts and carrying signs reading “Fix the Subway” and “Fund Public Transit,” the protesters gathered on the steps outside the New York State Assembly Chamber and demanded that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature provide long-term funding to address problems with subway and bus service.

A preliminary version of the state budget recently released by Cuomo did not contain long-term funding to fix New York’s ailing buses and subways.

Protesters cited long waits for subway trains, signal problems, train breakdowns and slow bus service as being among the most pressing issues plaguing riders. It will take billions of dollars to fix the transit system, according to the Riders Alliance, which called on the state to develop a new revenue source to pay for repairs.

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In 2017, subway delays were triple what they were five years earlier, according to the Riders Alliance. Solving the problem will require modernizing the subway system’s signals which were first installed in the 1930s and buying new subway cars to accommodate increasing numbers of riders, transit advocates said.

Riders Alliance Campaign Manager Rebecca Bailin said the sorry shape of the transit system is undermining the ability of New Yorkers 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 doctor’s 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,” Bailin said in a statement.

The Fix NYC panel appointed by Cuomo to develop solutions has proposed a congestion pricing under which drivers entering the Manhattan below 60th Street would be charged a toll. The funds generated by the toll would go toward fixing subways and buses.

The proposed charge would raise an estimated $1.5 billion a year.

The Riders Alliance has come out in favor of congestion pricing.

The group cited a statistic from the Community Service Society that showed that congestion riving would not hurt working-class New Yorkers. Less than three percent of residents from low-income commuters from the outer boroughs would have to pay the toll, according to the society.

In addition, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign contended that people driving into Manhattan are wealthier than subway straphangers.

The protesters found allies among several Brooklyn members of the state Legislature.

“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,” Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope) stated.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said the transit system is a mess with 70,000 delays a month. “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,” she 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,” said Assemblymember Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park).

“New York City is defined by its subway system, which is utilized by millions of riders each day. New York City is one the leading cities in the country, yet we are plagued by a prehistoric subway system,” said Assemblymember Latrice Walker (D-Brownsville).

Fixing the transit system will take a financial investment by the city and state, according to state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Crown Heights-parts of Park Slope, Sunset Park). “We must pursue the common-sense solutions we need to tackle the failings of our subway system,” he said.

State Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Williamsburg-Bushwick) said the time to address the situation is now. 

“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 altogether,” Dilan said.

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