State and Local Electeds Join Transit Operators and Advocates in Urging Governor Cuomo to Support Statewide Transit

New York State Assemblymember Shelley Mayer

New York State Assemblymember Shelley Mayer

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.

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Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget: $40 Million Taken from Transit, No Dedicated Pedestrian and Bicycling Safety Funding

Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget is a mixed-bag for transit and safe streets advocates. | Photo: Mike Groll/AP

Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget is a mixed-bag for transit and safe streets advocates. | Photo: Mike Groll/AP

Governor Andrew Cuomo released his 2014-2015 Executive Budget yesterday and a preliminary look suggests transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists are seeing a lot more take than give.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

While the budget increases MTA funding by $85 million, Governor Cuomo proposes to use $40 million in “surplus” transit funds to pay off bonds issued by the State on behalf of the MTA. Until last year, these bonds were serviced with General Funds. In 2013, when Governor Cuomo swept $20 million in transit funds, the move was criticized by transit advocates as well as State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli as a diversion of funds. The use of “surplus” funds to service this debt is something the Governor plans to do every year, beginning in FY2016:

Metro Mass Transportation Operating Aid (MMTOA) Debt Service Offset: The budget proposes to offset General Fund support for the MTA debt service costs by utilizing $40 million in dedicated resources from the MMTOA account to the General Debt Service Fund, with $20 million in resources available for the same purpose on an annual basis beginning in FY 2016.

While the Governor’s budget includes $310 million from the State’s General Fund to the MTA to compensate for lost revenue resulting from the rollback of the payroll mobility tax (PMT) in December 2011, this flat amount (which has been included every year since 2012) could be actually shortchanging potential revenue. The New York State Department of Labor estimates that 218,300 jobs were created in the downstate MTA region from November 2011 to November 2013, which means that additional PMT revenue likely would have been generated from these additional jobs, in excess of the $310 million. This additional revenue may have been enough to offset the proposed four percent MTA fare increase in 2015.

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Groundbreaking Report: Suburban Bus Systems Provide Multi-Million Dollar Boost to Regional Economy

A first-of-its-kind report commissioned by Tri-State Transportation Campaign and conducted by Appleseed, Inc. and New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, found that investment in Westchester County’s Bee Line and the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) served as boons for each county’s economy in 2012.suburban-bus-report-2

The report, “Supporting Economic Growth and Opportunity: The Economic Impact of Suburban Bus Service in Westchester and Nassau Counties,” found that in 2012 alone, the Bee Line and NICE systems added a total of $208 million and $191.5 million, respectively, to each county’s economy.

The totals were derived from both direct and indirect economic impacts, measuring the systems as enterprises themselves, as well as the multiplier effects generated as a result of money spent locally by employees on things like food, housing and utilities. These effects added almost half a billion dollars in economic development to the regional economy and supported 2,750 jobs (1,260 in Westchester and 1,490 in Nassau).

The report also highlighted that both bus systems serve as key economic lifelines for the riders who use them. Over 80,000 people a day use the Bee Line and NICE systems to get to work, earning an aggregate annual income of $1 billion in Westchester County and $840 million in Nassau County.

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Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino Carries Support for Buses into Budget

Westchester County Bee-Line bus

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a vocal champion in support of bus transit in the I-287 corridor and on the new Tappan Zee Bridge project, carried this support for buses into his recently released 2013 Proposed Operating Budget.  For the second consecutive year, the County Executive keeps Bee-Line Bus […]

The View From the Bus


Buses across the Tappan Zee run infrequently, even at rush hour. Photo: Dani Simons

Even if Westchester’s transportation infrastructure is set up to funnel workers into New York City, more than 70% of commuters traveling across the Tappan Zee are on their way to jobs in the suburbs. Westchester residents […]

Bee-Line Revealed as Backbone of Westchester Employment

Click to view the survey.

(Click to view the survey.)

Westchester County’s Bee-Line bus system hit record ridership numbers last year (32.3 million), and a recent survey has revealed a transit-dependent and diverse ridership that relies on the system primarily to get to work. Unfortunately, at a time that riders’ incomes have taken a substantial hit, the bus […]

Westchester Takes First Steps Toward Faster Central Ave. Buses

The Bee-Line's No. 20 and No. 21 buses connect White Plains, Yonkers, and the Bronx.

Westchester County is roughly a year away from completing the first phase of a plan to speed up buses on Central Avenue between White Plains and the Bronx, county officials said recently. The county is using state funds […]

“Whither Enhancements?” NY Localities Ask

Transportation Enhancements money was used for part of NYC's Ninth Avenue complete streets redesign.

Local governments in New York are still waiting for the state to distribute tens of millions of dollars from the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program, which is primarily used for bicycle and pedestrian projects. The last round of grants […]

Westchester-Manhattan Bus is Saved, For Now

Some bus riders in Westchester County have been spared a painful service cut after weeks of protesting the elimination of a critical bus route into Manhattan.  Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced on Thursday that the Bee-Line BxM4C bus, which provides express service along Central Avenue with stops in White Plains, Greenburgh and Yonkers to […]

Rally To Save Westchester-Manhattan Express Bus Is In Works

The BxM4C.

Supporters of Westchester County’s BxM4C Bee-Line express bus to Manhattan, which will be canceled in June under a cost-cutting plan proposed by County Executive Rob Astorino, are holding an organizing session today to discuss a planned rally and other ways to fight the plan. The session begins at 7 pm at […]