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NYCTRC Testimony – Sept 20, 2010 – Proposed Fare Increase

Testimony of the New York City Transit Riders Council
to the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Proposed Fare Increases
Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel
Flushing, NY

September 20, 2010

My name is Michael Sinansky and I am the Vice-Chair of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) and the Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s representative to the Transit Riders Council.  The MTA’s finances were largely shaped by an agreement reached in May 2009 between the State and MTA that included increased State financial assistance through new taxes and fees on motorists, taxi users and businesses, as well as increased rider support through a program of regular fare adjustments.  The riders are being held to their substantial obligations under this plan, but they now stand alone.  New state revenues have failed to meet projections and $143 million in revenues that had been promised for the operation of MTA services have instead been used to address other deficits in the State’s budget. As a result, the riders are now being called upon to bridge the MTA’s funding gap by themselves.   The riders were first subjected to service cuts. It was especially troublesome to see the devastating and disruptive MTA  bus and subway service cuts that went into effect this past June to save a sum total of $93 million. That is the exact amount that the federal government recently ponied up to change the name of a post office on 34th Street in Manhattan. It makes one sort of wonder where our priorities really are. We firmly believe that the members of the MTA Board and MTA senior management should work internally and with our City, State and Federal elected officials to find alternative means of covering the shortfall in revenues. To simply transfer this burden to riders is unacceptable.  Aside from these larger issues, we are troubled by several elements of the fare proposals being considered.  The most striking of these is the proposal to place limits on the number of rides available for 7 and 30 day MetroCards.  The NYCTRC firmly believes that time based MetroCards should not be capped.  Riders buy these farecards because they need to be able to use the transit system without restrictions.  The flexibility of the unlimited MetroCards is particularly important in areas of Queens where riders must make two transfers to reach their destinations. It should also be mentioned that the Draconian bus and subway service cuts that the MTA implemented this past June have resulted in the “rising from the ashes” of the infamous “two fare” zones in some outlying areas of Queens.   Our Council is receptive to the MTA’s efforts to reduce both track and subway platform litter resulting from carelessly discarded Metrocards year round and Student Metrocard Passes discarded at the end of the school year, but there has to be a better method than to impose a $1 surcharge on the purchase of Metrocards. The MTA’s energies would be more productively spent in more quickly achieving a smart card based fare system, which would make issues of farecard litter and new card issuance irrelevant.  Finally, the MTA’s action this past July to reinstitute tolls on the Cross Bay Bridge for Rockaway and Broad Channel residents is viewed by many of our residents as simply vindictive. As mentioned numerous times, this crossing remains the only intra-borough bridge in the entire City of New York that is a tolled facility. The MTA would be hard pressed to convince residents that they understand the reality of this fact and are not simply treating the Cross Bay Bridge as a “cash cow”.   The New York City Transit Riders Council cannot accept these fare increase proposals and calls upon this Board to likewise reject them. To do otherwise, will have grave consequences for our region and the riders whom we represent.