Bklyn Legislators Demand Funds to Fix Subway, Push Congestion Pricing

1280px-NYCS_BMT_Canarsie_Bedford

New York City transit riders are done waiting for promised improvements to the ailing subway system and are demanding improvements immediately.

New York State legislators alongside transit advocates rallied at the state capitol earlier today for a progressive, sustainable funding source and credible long-term plan to fix the subway.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

The group called on Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appoints Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) leadership and many board members, to push a budget through the state legislature that provides the funding required to fix the struggling subway and bus system.

Last month, Cuomo released a preliminary funding plan that included charging the city for the subway improvements. The governor’s appointed Fix NYC panel proposed creating a congestion zone and tolling drivers entering the Manhattan Central Business District (MCBD).

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.

Assembly Member Robert Carroll

Assemblyman Robert Carroll (D-Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Park Slope), a leading proponent of subway funding, pushed for immediate action at the rally.

“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,” said Carroll.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who originally came out against the idea in favor of a new “millionaires Tax” tax on the city’s highest earners with the riase in revenue earmarked for transit, has also warmed a bit to the congestion pricing plan.

“This plan certainly shows improvement over previous plans we’ve seen,” de Blasio said during a radio appearance on WNYC, calling it “definitely a step in the right direction.”

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.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton
Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis

“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,” said Senator Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn).

“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,” said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-South Brooklyn, Staten Island).

Assembly Member Feliz Ortiz
Sen. Martin Dilan

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park) highlighted the need for increased bus service as part of the subway funding demands, specifically for residents of his district in South Brooklyn.

“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,” said Ortiz.

“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,” said Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Bushwick, East New York, Ocean Hill/Brownsville).

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker

“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,” said Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brownsville).

According to the Riders Alliance of New York, last year, subway delays increased by triple from 2012 and only about 65% of trains complete their routes on time. Additionally, the transit system ranks dead last for on time arrivals among major transit systems worldwide.

More from Around New York