Transit advocates say state budget doesn’t go far enough

More steps needed to fix subways, riders contend

April 4, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of transit advocacy groups, including the Riders Alliance, held a protest rally outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office. Photo courtesy of Riders Alliance

The state budget agreement hammered out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature last weekend doesn’t do enough to fix New York City’s deteriorating subway system, transit advocates charged.

The budget agreement includes a partial congestion pricing plan under which cabs and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft would be require to charge a surcharge of $2.75 a ride to passengers picked up south of 96th Street in Manhattan. The money generated by the surcharge would be used on subway repairs.

But a coalition of transportation advocacy groups issued a joint statement charging that the congestion pricing plan doesn’t go far enough because all vehicles are not included.

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The coalition, including Transportation Alternatives, The Straphangers Campaign, Riders Alliance and StreetsPAC, issued a joint statement. 

“Initial reports indicate that, while the budget does include for-hire vehicle surcharges, bus lane expansion and enforcement, and some short-term funding for the MTA, it does not adopt the Fix NYC panel’s recommendations to implement congestion pricing, nor provide any credible plan to modernize and fund the MTA,” the statement read. 

Fix NYC was a panel put together by Cuomo with the task of coming up with ways to funds repairs to the city’s transit system. The panel’s recommendations included a congestion pricing plan that would have charged all vehicles a toll for entering Manhattan south of 60th Street.

“New Yorkers continue to suffer daily from our deteriorating and underfunded transit infrastructure, and congested roads cost the region $20 billion each year in lost economic productivity and job creation. Our transit system is on life support. Fixing our transit system should have been Albany’s first priority this year. Unfortunately, the final budget does not offer a credible plan to modernize the MTA, nor provide a sufficient revenue stream to make it possible,” the statement from the coalition read.

Meanwhile, subway service keeps getting worse, transit advocates said. On weekdays, subway trains are delayed nearly 50 percent of the time, according to the Riders Alliance. More than 76,000 trains were delayed in January. That’s up from January of 2017, when just over 60,000 trains saw delays.

The coalition called on Cuomo to commit to a timeline” to make congestion pricing a reality in New York.”

Congestion pricing could raise an estimated $1.5 billion a year to modernize the city’s old and deteriorating subway system, according to the Riders Alliance.

The agreement of the new $168 billion state budget was a day before the April 1 deadline. Under state law, a new budget has to be in place by April 1.

As the clock ticked toward the April 1 deadline, the Riders Alliance and other groups in the coalition mounted a last-minute push to try to win approval of congestion pricing by holding a protest demonstration outside Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office.

“Riders are frustrated, riders are angry, and we’re looking for the governor to put in place a serious plan to modernize the MTA and create a sustainable revenue source like congestion pricing to make it possible,” John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, said in a statement issued after the protest rally.

In his announcement of the budget agreement, Cuomo said the spending plan includes the following items:

  • Funding of a Subway Action Plan to make immediate repairs and improve subway maintenance with half of the $836 million to be provided by New York City.

  • Enacting the $2.75 surcharge on for-hire vehicles south of 96th Street in Manhattan to help ease congestion and to establish a long-term funding stream for public transportation.

  • Expanding the New York City Bus Camera program by installing at least 50 new traffic monitoring cameras to enforce bus lane violations that slow down buses and create congestion.

In a statement release by his office, Cuomo defended the new budget.

“With this budget, we chart a path forward and ever upwards toward a better future for all New Yorkers,” the governor stated.


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