March 25, 2019
Regional Transit Service (RTS) CEO Bill Carpenter today testified at a joint public hearing in Syracuse on the transformation taking place in public transportation and the need for more funding. The joint public hearing was held by: the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities & Commissions; the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Transportation, and; the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation.
Following is the testimony Carpenter submitted orally and in writing, as prepared.
Oral Statement of
Chief Executive Officer
On behalf of Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA)
At the Joint Public Hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation, and the Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation
To Examine the Effectiveness of New York State's Transit Networks
Friday, March 22, 2019
SRC Arena and Events Center
Onondaga Community College
Thank you Chairman Magnarelli, Chairman Kennedy and Chairman Comrie, for the opportunity to testify today, and for your leadership on public transit issues.
I am Bill Carpenter, the CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority. I also serve as president of the New York Public Transit Association. I am here today in both capacities because the realities we face as a transit provider in the Rochester region are the same as those in Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany, Long Island, and all areas in between.
At last week’s hearing in Buffalo, you heard from Kelly Fitzpatrick and Aimee Rader from the RGRTA team as they discussed the importance of public transportation in New York’s rural areas and the impact of increased funding.
There is a transformation underway in our industry and it has ushered in a period of disruptive change. Because of the constant influx of new technologies and mobility options, customers want more choices, more flexibility, more customized solutions; and they want it now. Seniors, millennials and employees of 24/7 businesses are asking us to do more than we are able to with the resources we have.
We have been sharing this reality with our leaders in Albany for the past few years. I thank Governor Cuomo for addressing this new reality in his budget proposal. And I thank you, Chairman Magnarelli and Chairman Kennedy, for recognizing it in the respective one-house budgets that were passed last week.
As you know, New York’s transit systems, including RGRTA, are asking for a 50% increase in funding over the next five years – a 10% increase per year – to meet the needs of our customers. The budgets you passed reflect that need and we stand ready to work with you to see these levels reflected in the final budget.
When Kelly and Aimee testified last week, they spoke to the effectiveness of public transit in the rural areas we serve. You learned about the experiences of some of our customers in Livingston and Wyoming Counties and the challenges they face. Stories like those exist throughout our service area. Since we are in Syracuse today, you may be interested to know that adjacent to the CENTRO service area, we provide public transit for Seneca and Wayne counties. In these areas, we work closely with farmers, businesses and local governments to help get people to work and other important destinations.
For example, each year we work with approximately 15 farmers in Wayne County to ensure mobility for the migrant workers they employ. We provide direct transit to work, the store, the bank…so all their destinations are achievable. We also work with Wayne County Workforce Development to help low-income workers maintain access to employment opportunities. Our agreement results in customized routes and subsidized bus fares for both daycare and work. Jessica, a mother of three small children, benefited from this program. Each day we transported Jessica to and from work as well as her children to and from daycare or school. After using this program for a number of months, Jessica called to say that she had saved enough money to buy her own vehicle. She was proud to say she no longer needed our assistance. Usually public transit is a way of life; for Jessica it was an important safety net and changed her life circumstance. The program worked the way it was intended! Unfortunately, because of constrained funding programs like these are often reduced or eliminated.
In Monroe County, the Regional Transit Service, or RTS, serves a population of nearly 750,000 people in urban, suburban and rural areas. That represents more than 600 employees facilitating a ridership of nearly 15 million each year. From a paratransit perspective, we have more than 100 employees providing nearly 215,000 rides each year.
The story of RTS in Monroe County is similar to the stories you have heard around the state, and stories I hear from colleagues around the country. Our economy is growing. Jobs are being located further from the center city. We have new populations of transit users in both our seniors and millennials. The disruptive change I mentioned is accelerating the need for more frequent service, better technology, and customized on-demand solutions for our customers.
At the same time, funding for public transit isn’t keeping up. This stretches our transit system and makes it increasingly difficult to provide a level of service that meets people’s needs.
We have implemented a two-step approach to address our new reality in Monroe County. The first step is through Reimagine RTS, which is the system redesign project that is currently underway. When we implement our reimagined system in the summer of 2020, it will include more frequency, more flexibility and more customization. It will embrace the new technologies and mobility options that continue to emerge. It will better meet the changing needs of our customers and community. And it will include a robust solution for our paratransit customers that goes well beyond what is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The second step is through a revamped advocacy strategy to secure a significant and sustainable increase in funding for all of New York’s transit systems. It is important to remember that transit funding isn’t just transit funding. It is funding for economic development, for access to jobs, education, healthcare, and groceries. It is funding for important life services and it is funding for infrastructure. Transit is the engine that drives success in all of these areas.
As I wrap up my remarks, I thank you for the capital plan that is in place and the increased capital funding you included in your one-house budgets. Because of your support in this area and support from the federal government, we now have the funding to begin replacing our 40-year old service building with a new environmentally friendly facility. We are able to make improvements to our campus to prepare for the addition of 10 electric buses to our fleet. And we were able to conduct a study of our paratransit facility. That study concluded that a new facility is needed to support growing demand for paratransit service. Your continued support for increased capital funding in this and future budgets will help us meet the needs of so many in our community.
Thank you again for your support, leadership, commitment to public transit, and for the opportunity to speak today.
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