MTA Testimony 2018
Member of Assembly, 64th District
First, let me express how disappointed I am that the MTA chose to hold this hearing concerning transportation for Staten Islanders at 5:30pm and on the second day of Hanukah. It is common knowledge that most residents do not return to the Island until at least 7:00pm due to their lengthy commute. In addition to the Staten Island hearing being held on the second day of Hanukah, the hearing in Brooklyn which I also represent and is home to some of the largest Jewish communities in the state, is scheduled for the last day of the holiday. The lack of consideration in scheduling these hearing dates has lent credence to the concern that these hearings are nothing more than dog and pony shows and the MTA is not interested in gathering input from those affected by MTA hikes.
As a legislator in the unique position of representing both Staten Island and Brooklyn, I hold a very strong position that the toll on the Verrazano Bridge should not be increased any further. Additionally, commuters who rely on bus and subway service to get to work, school and go about their daily business, cannot bare anymore, particularly when the service is inadequate. Instead, we should be looking toward plans like Move New York, to find ways to reduce the burden placed on toll and fare payers before asking them to pay more of their hard-earned money.
Staten Island is one of the most transportation-starved communities in the city and this year one of our only reliable transit options, the express bus, was redesigned in a way that only further inconvenienced riders by decreasing service on some lines, leading to crowded buses with longer lines and extended commutes. Without first making the wrongs right, the MTA has the audacity to propose increasing the express bus fare to either $7 or $7.25.
Likewise, my constituents on the other side of the bridge have had enough with toll and fare increases as the R train, which so many Bay Ridge residents depend on, is plagued by interruptions and delays that wreak regular havoc. In one of your proposals, you are asking them to pay $3, a $.25 increase for lousy, unreliable service. Additionally, as I have said before, when it comes to Brooklynites who work or attend school on Staten Island, there is no relief in place as it is for the ridiculously high toll of $17, which you now want to increase to an even more absurd $19. The bridge should be built in gold and take you to paradise for a $19 fee. I continue to advocate for toll relief to be implemented for those Brooklynites who utilize the bridge multiple days a week, as the Port Authority has provided for those who make three or more trips per month.
Going back to Sam Schwartz’ Move NY plan, I believe it is the proper starting point for negotiations to develop a plan that will bring in the necessary money the MTA needs for capital improvements while reducing the burden placed on everyday commuters. Additionally, the MTA needs to prioritize its projects and look for efficiencies that do not include service cuts to ensure that whatever funding the authority acquires is invested in long overdue transportation infrastructure improvements, like upgrading all our subway signals to Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) that produces results for the people using it. The MTA’s decisions of the past to put costly megaprojects like the Long Island East Side Access and Second Avenue Subway before upgrading pre-WWII subways equipment was misguided and the reason the system is now plagued with roughly 70,000 delays a month.
Lastly, I would like to state that I support the MTA’s position that fare beating and turnstile jumping should be penalized. When fare beaters don’t pay, the burden to make up the shortfall falls on the rest of us. It’s outrageous that we have prosecutors, whose jobs are to ensure laws are followed, turning a blind eye on what is becoming a growing problem. It also sets a very bad precedent. If the fares keep going up, fewer will pay if they feel they will not face any consequences.
Thank you for allowing me to voice my concerns for the people of my district. I hope that you will take what I have said into consideration when determining our transportation’s future.