Transit is New York’s Infrastructure of Access and a Key Driver of
Economic Development in Urban and Rural Areas
Transit operators from Buffalo to Long Island converged on Albany Wednesday to call on state lawmakers and the governor to adequately and equitably fund transit systems as they seek to keep up with rider demands, maintain aging fleets and accelerate economic growth in their communities.
The New York Public Transit Association, the statewide trade group that represents transit systems, is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Assembly and the state Senate to increase non-MTA transit funding by $50 million in the state budget. Specifically, it is imperative that upstate transit systems receive an additional $20 million and downstate non-MTA transit systems receive an additional $30 million over last year's funding levels.
Transit service in New York’s urban, suburban and rural areas is the lifeblood of economic growth. Transit provides the access and connections that make New York move and the economy flourish. Proper funding for transit is as essential to ensure investments in economic development are successful.
NYPTA recognizes that the MTA system is in crisis and is in significant need of funding to improve service and modernize infrastructure. But transit systems on Long Island, in downstate suburban communities and across upstate also are a key component to economic and community growth and must receive equitable attention. When combined, all of the non-MTA systems in New York state represent the seventh largest transit system in the country.
“The MTA system must be fixed and properly funded, but so too must our transit systems across the state, from those that feed the MTA to those operating in Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton and everywhere in between,” said Bill Carpenter, NYPTA president and CEO of Regional Transit Service in Rochester. “We urge lawmakers and the governor to prioritize transit as they negotiate the state budget and fully fund systems that connect New Yorkers with economic opportunity."
"CDTA has seen consistent ridership growth, and now we need corresponding growth in state funding to keep up with the demands of our riders and their desire for more routes and an investment in innovation," said Carm Basile, CEO of the Capital District Transportation Authority and NYPTA past president. "From building out bus rapid transit service to maintaining our existing fleet, we are ready to work with our state lawmakers to secure necessary funding that will help us provide services that have made CDTA North America's Best Mid-Size Transportation System."
"As the only non-MTA transit provider with rail service, the NFTA is facing unique challenges when it comes to funding," said Tom George, director of public transit for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. "Equitable attention from state lawmakers and the governor is essential for us to continue serving as partners in the ongoing resurgence of the Western New York economy. We cannot put off for another year the existing needs of our system and must be able to plan for what's around the bend."
Key legislative stakeholders recognize how vital transit is to moving not only their constituents but New Yorkers across this state from point A to point B, whether that's to and from home, work, medical appointments, school or recreational activities.
"Whether it's in my home region of Rochester or anywhere in this state, I recognize the value of transit for New Yorkers and the businesses that call the Empire State home," said state Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Robach. "My colleagues and I are fighting for transit this year because we understand how critically important it is to ensure adequate, equitable funding for these vital systems. From Rochester to Riverdale and beyond, we are committed to serving the New Yorkers who rely on transit."
"As a member representing Westchester County residents, I have strongly advocated for proper funding for both the MTA and our non-MTA transit systems," said Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee Chairwoman Amy Paulin. "As I work to ensure our subways and commuter rail lines receive the funding they need, I also am fighting for adequate funding for all transit systems relied on by riders and the business community. The Assembly recognizes that we are one state, and we must keep that in mind when it comes to transit."
"As a Long Islander, and chairman of the Senate Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, I understand the importance of a safe and seamless transportation system and how essential our MTA and non-MTA transit systems are to my constituents," state Sen. Elaine Phillips said. "Providing equitable funding for both systems is not just essential, it is the right thing to do. I will continue to be a vocal advocate within the Senate for a fair share for all transit systems and riders."
It is not just state-level lawmakers who recognize the impact that transit can have. Municipal officials across the state are supportive of public transit in their areas and recognize the value of a fair increase in state funding.
"Adequate funding for public transportation needs are critical for the economies of metropolitan areas such as the Capital Region and across Upstate New York," Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said. "Many residents in Schenectady rely on public transit to get to and from their jobs and to feed their families. We have to address their needs in a fair and sustainable way."
Transit's importance to economic development cannot be understated. Business and transit leaders alike recognize that without a way to move New Yorkers to and from their place of work, the state's economy will suffer.
“While we recognize the state faces a budget deficit, and we have called for a recalibration of state spending in key areas, maintaining adequate funding for public transit is necessary to ensure the economic health of our state and the safety and security of New Yorkers,” said Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. “We are confident our state’s leaders can find the $50 million needed to improve aging infrastructure and support the increased demand of travelers moving throughout New York.”
While NYPTA is working on behalf of transit authorities from Long Island to Western New York, our riders also are adamant that transit must be properly funded in order to best serve their needs.
"As someone who chooses not to own a car, public transit is essential for my professional and personal life," said Lee Dixon, a Capital District Transportation Authority rider from Albany. "Using public transit helps me be environmentally conscious and saves me money on vehicle and parking costs downtown and has been made easy because of CDTA's great route network. CDTA, and the systems like across the state, cannot afford to have state leaders put off properly funding transit yet again, especially as millennials like me increasingly rely on the services our systems provide."