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January 14 , 2009

Testimony of Marvin Rich, President of New York City Americans for Democratic Action, at the MTA Public Hearing on proposed changes (increases) in fares and toll charges and proposed changes in service on the tracks and in the stations

 

              Good evening.  I am Marvin Rich, President, New York City Americans for Democratic Action. Thank you, Chair person H. Dale Hemmerdinger and the other  members of the MTA Board, for the opportunity to present our members’ views on proposed changes in fares and service in response to projected budget gaps for FY’10.

              NYCADA, the NYC chapter of Americans for Democratic Action, is a liberal political organization dedicated to building a just society through education and political action. 

 

 A safe, efficient and affordable transit system is vital to maintain and grow our great city!  Each workday, our public transit system carries nine million workers, students, other members of the general public and tourists.  Costs continue to rise.  However, subway riders in New York already bear a larger part of the cost of operating the system (69%) through their fares than do riders in other large cities. Therefore, it is important that much of the increased cost should be borne by the businesses, industries and governmental agencies that benefit from this service.

              The 2009 budget of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is $10 billion.  A deficit of just under $1.2 billion is projected for the current fiscal year unless significant additional income is secured.   For the 2010 fiscal year, the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, projects $177 million in cuts in maintenance, service, personnel, cleaning and administration. These cuts include ending two subway lines

 (W and Z) and shortening three others (G, J and M).  The MTA also plans a $670 million increase in fares and toll charges.

              We recognize that these are serious challenges for the MTA.    The MTA has borrowed $27 billion to buy new subway cars and busses, to renew tracks and signals and to rehabilitate stations.  As a result of these necessary improvements, by 2012 interest payments will grow to over $2 billion annually.  And the nation’s economic decline has meant, and for some years it will continue to mean, significantly less revenue from real estate transfer taxes.  Further, New York City and New York State have decreased their support for school bus and subway passes for 550,000 students. New York City contributes only 4% of the costs of operating our subway and bus system.

              ADA  believes that the Ravitch Commission proposals are helpful. Of the various proposals out there to respond effectively to the problem, NYCADA prefers the option that would maintain the $2.00 fare.  We don’t like its accompaniment: those who pay cash or buy single fare tickets must pay $2.25 per ride and the pay-per-ride bonus would be eliminated.  Another option, an increase in the basic fare from $2.00 to $2.25 tied to an increase to 20% in the bonus for buying pay-per-ride MetroCards of $7.50 or more, is painful but doable.  We vigorously oppose the options that would increase the basic fare to $2.50.

             Several proposals to secure more funding from those who benefit from the transit system – businesses and government agencies among others - have been made.  However, ADA opposes tolls on the East River and Harlem River Bridges that are now free. Drivers who reside in the so-called outer boroughs are residents of New York City. They should not be penalized because they do not live in Manhattan.  These bridges permit drivers to travel readily from one borough to the next.  Further, the cost of collecting tolls will be roughly 40% of the income. We would be willing to see modest increases in tolls at existing toll sites.

         Comptroller Thompson’s car registration proposal seems reasonable.  He proposes the introduction of a weight-based surcharge of $100 for vehicles weighing 2,300 pounds or less – plus 9 cents for each pound over that threshold.

  

         The Ravitch Commission has suggested a downstate payroll tax of 33 cents for every $100.  It would apply to employers  including city and state governments, and non-profits as well as businesses..  An organization with an annual payroll of $100,000 would pay $330 a year.  In any case, a higher proportion of the costs of the transit system should be borne by those who benefit but do not now support it adequately. 

              Starting in March of this year, the MTA proposes to cut service by shortening or eliminating five subway lines and a dozen bus routes. In some cases week-end service and /or overnight service will be eliminated.  Twenty-five bus lines would eliminate overnight service.  On most subway lines there will be an increase of 10 to 18 riders per car.  The W and the Z lines would be eliminated.  The G line would end at Court House Square in Queens.  The N line would lose 5 stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Ten bus lines would be eliminated.  Still others would be shortened  and/or have their waiting times increased. ADA believes that these cuts in service are far too large.

             ADA supports continuation of the 50% deduction for senior citizen fares.  We oppose the plan to raise the Access-a-Ride fares for disabled passengers to double the basic fare for subway and bus riders.

 

 
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