Day featured panel discussions with New York Public Transit Association members, transportation advocates and state legislators, followed by advocacy at the State Capitol

On March 10, transportation advocates descended on the Renaissance Albany and the State Capitol to meet with lawmakers and discuss their advocacy priorities for the year, as well as the immediate needs for the 2020 budget as it continues to be negotiated.

The New York Public Transit Association (NYPTA) and the New Yorkers For Better Public Transit coalition hosted panel discussions with transportation advocates and members, along with state and locally elected officials, and spoke about the need for increased and sustained funding for public transit systems throughout the state.

As communities across the state demand greater mobility, more travel options and better access that supports economic growth, transportation advocates are seeking sustainable, multi-year funding for all transit systems in New York.

“It is imperative the state provides sufficient, long-term funding to transit systems throughout New York so communities in this state can continue to thrive. Millions of New Yorkers rely on public transit to get to their jobs, healthcare, shopping, education and recreational activities. That’s why the state must renew the five-year capital program and provide the necessary funding that allows transit systems to meet the growing needs of customers and the communities they serve,” said Bill Carpenter, president of the New York Public Transit Association and chief executive officer of Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester.

Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Legislators increased funding for New York’s transit systems for the 2019 budget. It represented the first year of NYPTA’s request for increases in public transit funding over the next five year (10% per year) to allow transit systems to meet the growing needs of customer and the communities they serve.

In his proposed budget for 2020, Governor Cuomo proposed a 16% increase for non-MTA downstate transit system, an increase that is supported by NYPTA. However, upstate transit systems were only given a 4% increase.

NYPTA has requested the governor and state Legislators bring the proposed increase for upstate systems closer to the level proposed for downstate systems.

Additionally, funding is needed for a $1.7 billion, 5-year capital program. Last year, upstate and suburban downstate transit systems identified in a report a total of $700 million in federal, state and local revenue streams available to fund infrastructure projects, leaving a $1 billion gap in needed investment.

The capital program would fund the replacement of transit buses, improve transit maintenance facilities and provide for new technology that will improve mobility and make using transit and related systems easier for riders and customers.

Additionally, NYPTA supports the $3 billion in capital funding for the MTA in the Executive Budget and the call for New York City to provide a matching $3 billion.

New York state transit systems transport more than nine million riders every day, making more than 3.8 billion passenger trips annually. It’s not only a more economical method of travelling, as public transit users save approximately $10,000 a year instead of driving, but it’s also more environmentally-friendly because it reduces the state’s carbon emissions by 17 million tons per year.

Governor Cuomo is looking to improve upon these figures as he is requesting five of the largest upstate and suburban downstate transit systems electrify 25% of their bus fleets by 2025 and 100 percent by 2035.

In order to achieve this, New York’s transit systems need even more funding than the $1.7 billion capital plan it is requesting to fund the purchases of electric buses and the significant infrastructure upgrades needed to support them.

“Millions of New Yorkers rely on public transit systems across our state every day, and we need to ensure that these systems are both responsibly invested in and properly maintained. If we want New York's economy to thrive, we must provide long-term, sustainable funding for all of our transportation networks,” said Senator Tim Kennedy, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee (D-Buffalo).

“A big part of increasing economic development is a well-funded, robust public transit system. Investment in transit can have a multiplier effect on the economy, with a return of $4 for ever dollar invested. That’s a sound investment New York should not be hesitant to make,” said Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli, D-Syracuse.

"Public transit is essential in connecting millions of New Yorkers to where they need to go. Whether it is to their jobs, their doctors or even to eat at one of the many fine establishments located in the fabulous downtown areas across New York, people rely on public transit. And as we try and reduce our carbon footprint here in New York, we need to provide the necessary long-term funding for our transit systems,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson, D-Rochester.

“Millions of New Yorkers rely on public transit on a daily basis. Some do this to either save money or to help the environment, while others use it because it’s their only option for transportation. That is why it is incumbent upon us as legislators to make sure these transit systems are reliable and safe for them to utilize by providing enough funding for them to meet customer wants and needs,” said Senator Leroy Comrie, D-Queens

“We live during an exciting time as our public transit systems are transitioning their bus fleets to all-electric buses. However, in order for this to be successful, we need to provide them with the necessary funding in order to purchase these buses and the infrastructure needed for them. We must make these crucial and vital investments in order to help make New York a more environmentally-friendly state,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale.

“Public transportation is essential for so many in Central New York. With enough funding, the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority will be able to provide riders with the service they deserve and make critical improvements to our transit system. Let’s do the right thing and make sure our regional transit services have the resources they need to provide safe and reliable transportation,” said Senator Rachel May, D-Syracuse.

“As the Capital Region grows, so does the demand for mobility options. CDTA is a regional leader, focused on bringing innovative and expanded mobility options to our area, positioning it for continued growth and success,” said Brian O’Grady, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Capital District Physicians Health Plan.

"On Transit Awareness Day, we are excited to see the growing recognition that public transit has to be a key part of our climate solutions. With transportation now the largest industry contributor to climate change emissions, now is the time to double down on transit as the answer. We're glad to see the MTA is full steam ahead on the transition to electric buses, with a target of 2040 for a fully zero-emissions fleet, and with Governor Cuomo's call for upstate transit agencies to join the MTA, riders will soon enjoy even cleaner transit options across New York State. Now we need the state to commit to the Transportation and Climate Initiative to raise funds to make sure we can expand public transit options across the state, especially in communities where residents want to age in place and need good transit options to continue to get around,” said Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign