March 20, 2015
Today, leaders and advocates are calling on the New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo to support critically-needed transit systems throughout New York State and ensure that the final budget includes both capital investment and additional operating aid for upstate, and downstate, systems.
The 2015-16 Executive Budget proposed zero growth in state operating assistance (STOA) for upstate and downstate transit systems, other than a small increase for the downstate’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and it failed to fully-fund a statewide transit capital plan. The Senate and Assembly one-house budget resolutions do better, but neither go far enough to meet Rochester’s transit needs. Advocates called on the state to provide, in the final budget, at least $25 million for upstate operating assistance, as well as substantial capital investment of at least $100 million for both the suburban downstate and upstate public transportation systems.
The cost to provide quality transit service increases each year. Although fuel costs are down, pension, health care and paratransit operating costs continue to rise. Transit systems cannot continue to operate current services at existing funding levels, let alone increase service. Transit service in the Rochester region operates at low frequencies, and RGRTA would need additional funding to provide much-needed increase in service frequencies. Systems across the state are bracing for the possibility that they will have to raise fares and/or cut service in order to address the funding gap in their budgets.
The New York Public Transit Association has developed a 5-year upstate and suburban capital plan that identifies $1 billion in capital needs. Half of this proposed plan is currently unfunded. Over $35 million in capital needs have been identified for RGRTA, including significant investments in the central maintenance facilities and to replace operational and administrative software. Unfortunately, state transit operating assistance has not grown over the past five years and consequently, systems have been forced to divert significant portions of their capital funds to meet day-to-day operating costs.
New York’s transit systems support the state’s economy and improve the quality of life in our communities by providing safe and reliable mobility. Transit systems connect businesses, provide access to jobs, and support economic development across the state. Additionally, New York has a premiere cluster of transit manufacturing businesses that would benefit significantly from a fully-funded statewide capital plan.
“In addition to maintaining the current funding level of $178 million, as Senate Transportation Chair, I was happy to join with my colleagues to pass $25 million in flexible upstate transit capital in the Senate budget. I know how important mass transit is for those who use it to commute to work, school and other destinations across the region. I will continue to work to promote parity for mass transit for upstate and encourage further progress similar to what is in place in New York City,” said New York State Senator Joe Robach, Senate Transportation Chair.
“Affordable transportation is one of the most important tools we can provide to help residents get to and from work, or simply enjoy all that our community has to offer. I was proud to support $25 million for Upstate transportation in the Senate Budget, plus $82,000 for RGRTA to help more residents afford the transition from welfare to work, but more remains to be done. I look forward to partnering with our Delegation to advocate for RGRTA and affordable public transportation across Monroe and Ontario counties,” said New York State Senator Richard Funke.
“The opening of the RTS Transit Center is proving to be a sound investment—bringing RGRTA closer to its vision of becoming the preferred transportation choice and fostering the redevelopment of a vibrant, transit-friendly Downtown. We are now poised to begin facility and site improvements at our main campus, the RTS Access campus, and numerous Regional facilities. Robust operating aid and capital funding is vital and will enable us to continue driving forward,” said Bill Carpenter, CEO – Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority
“Adequate investments need to be made to ensure that transportation is a positive factor, not a limiting one, for economic development and quality of life in the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region. While we need additional resources for all forms of transportation, inadequate funding for transit harms those who can least afford a reduction in their options to get to where they need to be when they need to be there,” said Richard Perrin, Executive Director – Genesee Transportation Council.
"Businesses and workers in our community rely on the service RTS provides. Tens of thousands of people each day, many of whom do not have the luxury of being able to drive, use public transportation to get to their jobs and services they need to live. RTS does an excellent job with the limited resources they are given. But this winter we saw just how vulnerable our transit system is. High demand, rough weather, and other challenges continue to cause reliability issues and even the threat of service cuts. Our community deserves better. We want to make sure RTS has the resources they need to provide an excellent level of service each and every day, and the security to be able to plan improvements for the future," said Mike Governale, president Reconnect Rochester
Public transit is no longer a necessity, it is a requirement. A requirement for a thriving and resilient city. If you look around the world at some of the most progressive cities, public transportation reigns high in one of the services provided to its citizenry and for the wellbeing of their future. We can no longer pretend that we can be a 21st century metropolitan community without providing 21st century amenities. We are both encouraged and discouraged by the investment in alternative means of transportation throughout the State and especially here in the City of Rochester. To be an attractive urban center in which new businesses want to locate and young people want to live then we must offer modern conveniences and amenities of which public transit is one. Without easy accessibility and alternative means of transportation we will lose the fight for economic and social wellbeing. If the City of Rochester and the County of Monroe are going to thrive then there is no doubt in my mind that a much better public transit system is a requirement. Besides, it our environmental responsibility to make sure we leave the world better than when we inherited it,” said Lewis Stess, Co-Founder, President & CEO Greentopia.
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