Yesterday morning in Westchester, a group of more than 30 elected officials, transit users, transit operators and transportation advocates braved the bitter cold for a press conference to call on Governor Cuomo to increase funding in his Executive Budget to support statewide public transit systems, which face a collective need of $33 billion over the next five years.
Transit ridership across New York is at an all-time high, yet Albany’s investment is not rising to the occasion—the proposed 2015-2016 Executive Budget keeps operating assistance flat at 2014-2015 levels for all non-MTA transit systems. The advocates and electeds called for more than $140 million in new operating aid investment for non-MTA transportation systems, and also called for a fully-funded MTA Capital Program.
The Westchester stakeholders have a vested interest in transit investment because of the role transit plays in both the urban and suburban areas of the county. Bee-Line, considered to be the ‘backbone‘ of county employment, is one of the country’s largest suburban transit programs, providing nearly 33 million trips annually, according to Assemblymember Shelley Mayer. Yet despite a 3.5 percent increase in ridership from 2011 to 2013, state operating support has leveled out, leaving riders to shoulder the burden. Tri-State’s Veronica Vanterpool testified that “Every dollar invested by Westchester County into Bee-Line yields $23 in economic activity and supports 1,260 jobs. Few other investments yield this rate of return while also reducing traffic congestion and pollution, spurring transit-oriented development, and creating equitable communities.”
And given the role of Metro-North in supporting housing, employment and economic development across Westchester, lawmakers and advocates are refusing to settle for anything less than a fully-funded MTA Capital Program so that Metro-North riders can be ensured safe, reliable service in the future. Nearly $3 billion of the five-year Program is slated for Metro-North improvements.