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PCAC Statement – March 24, 2010 – Service Reductions & Funding

Statement of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA
Before the MTA Board

March 24, 2010

I am William Henderson, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.  The PCAC was established by the State Legislature to serve as the coordinating organization for three riders councils created by the state in 1981.

First, I want to express our appreciation to the staff of the MTA and its operating agencies for their efforts and to those members of the Board who attended multiple public hearings earlier this month.  It’s obvious to us and, we believe, to the riders that the concerns and proposals presented at the hearings were heard and taken seriously.  We are pleased to see that service reductions such as the slashing of Ronkonkoma to Greenport service, cancellation of a significant part of Port Jervis line service, and elimination of bus service to parts of Tribeca, Grymes Hill on Staten Island, and Sheepshead Bay have been taken off of the table.

Our top priority has always been the preservation of service throughout the MTA region.  Despite adjustments in the service cuts, many riders will still lose essential service and a great deal of pain will be imposed.  The issue of student fares has been deferred and not resolved.  Seen in this light, the recommended actions before you today remain a failure, but I want to be clear that the primary responsibility for this failure lies with our elected officials, who have consistently fallen short of their responsibility to provide adequate, stable, and reliable funding for the long term health of our transportation system.

We’ve seen the results of this failure for years.  Whether it’s inadequate funding to meet City and State obligations to transport students, insufficient capital funding that forced the MTA to borrow to prevent system deterioration, the use of dedicated tax funds to pay operating assistance properly funded from general revenues, or the extraction of $143 million from an MTA already reeling from massive shortfalls in payroll taxes touted as the answer to its structural deficit, the decisions that led us to this point were primarily made in Albany and City Hall and not in this room.  I urge this Board and the riders to continue to insist that Albany and City Hall be the major part of the solution.

It is a difficult time at all levels of government, but this isn’t going to get any easier.  There’s another tax revenue shortfall on the horizon and the clock is ticking.  We all need to demand that our elected officials give our transportation system the attention it deserves.  We fully support making the system more efficient, but efficiencies won’t solve this problem, and there’s very little left to cut that will not cause permanent damage.

I also want to mention the upcoming resubmission of the 2010-2014 Capital Program.  We urge that the proposed plan be publicized widely and that the priorities and choices incorporated in it be as transparent to the public as possible.  The Capital Program doesn’t have the same immediate impact as the operating budget, but it represents our future, and the people of the region should have every opportunity to review and discuss its many elements.