Read my testimony from the MTA service cuts hearing
Testimony of Councilmember Brad Lander
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
March 3, 2010
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Brad Lander and I represent the 39th City Council District. I am adamantly opposed to the service cuts facing our city. The mass transit system is the life blood of our region and is a necessity to millions of households in the region.
The cuts to student metro cards and Access-a-Ride are particularly troubling and will only create other problems down the line: truant students in low-income neighborhoods, health problems for Access-a-Ride customers who will miss medical appointments, and a more dangerous system as station workers are cut.
Among other dramatic reductions in services, the MTA is proposing to reduce service or completely eliminate the B23, B51, B69, B67, B71, B75, and B77 buses all of which directly serve my district.
We need to recognize what these drastic changes mean in the daily lives of New Yorkers. My office has heard from teachers whose students will not be able to afford to get to school. From people who work the late shift. From parents who take their children to school on a bus route that will be no more.
I want to share the words of a couple of these constituents with you all tonight. I heard from Bob in Park Slope about the importance of the B75.
“I am writing about the proposed cut of the B-75 bus in our district. As a longtime Park Slope resident I have found this bus to be invaluable for my day to day functioning. I used the bus when I was working in downtown Brooklyn and the bulk of the riders were working class people, seniors and students -- the salt of the earth. The elderly and disabled use it for short runs to do their shopping on 9th Street and will now be forced to use car services if they can afford it, which would further pollute our air.”
“I can understand longer wait times, but to completely abandon riders is unconscionable.
The abandonment of bus routes and subway lines will lead to more traffic, lower ridership and other unproductive and regressive consequences. I hope that you can use whatever influence you have to fight these short-sighted changes.”
Because in my district there is only one handicap-accessible station, these cuts will mean that many disabled people will be cut off from other portions of their neighborhood, and dependent on a crippled paratransit system. I heard from Mr. Brown in Kensington:
“I have been a rider of Access-A-Ride for about 5 years. I am a social worker, but I would not have been able to work were it not for this service. Recently, I have been hearing all kinds of rumors about exactly what cuts are going to be made, but when I have called the MTA and asked exactly what the current status of the plan is, I have been abruptly told that there was nothing they could tell me. Cutting so called "pleasure rides" will end my social life since I will not be able to go out on weekends and at other times for recreational purposes. That might not seem significant to someone who has the use of his/her legs; it might even be the attitude of those with mobility that I should be grateful for any service at all.”
“I can walk only a block or so on my own. I want to get all the exercise I can so that my condition will not deteriorate. Yet, if I am not able to travel door-to-door, it will seriously limit the things I can do: things that people with mobility consider essential to their lives. I am requesting that you do all in your power to put reasonable limits on whatever cuts they choose to make.”
I recognize there is a severe funding crisis that the MTA is confronting and that the state fixes passed last year are unfortunately not a permanent solution. The MTA, along with the state and local governments need to find a sustainable solution to cover the funding gap.
Part of the way we can address this current crisis has been aptly described by Speaker Quinn and the Straphangers Campaign: by using stimulus funds to plug the gap in operating funds. This should only be a temporary measure to close the budget gap in extraordinary times, as we do not want to mortgage the future of our system to the present. But it is a smart solution that prevents ridership and service from being decimated.
We need to look at tough choices like resurrecting the commuter tax or implementing congestion pricing in a smart, fair way. No matter what the solution is, it needs to be equitably shared across the region. The payroll tax proposal from the governor to increase the share of the tax paid by the city goes backwards on this measure.
The first step in a solution is for the MTA to not cut service. Doing so will be poison pill for future negotiations, as it reduces ridership and sets off a downward spiral that undermines the health of our system. This solution requires all levels of officials stepping up to find a solution, but it must begin by the MTA averting these drastic, harmful cuts.
What does your neighborhood need? An improved park? Safer streets? New school technology? In participatory budgeting, you give your ideas and City Councilmember Brad Lander has set aside $1 million to fund them. And your votes will decide which projects get funded.