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State Lawmakers & RTS Call for Inclusion of Robust Funding Increase for Public Transit in Final NYS Budget

March 24, 2023

RTS seeks at least 20% increase in funding and new, sustainable dedicated revenue sources to fund growth of transit system

During a virtual press conference this morning, New York State lawmakers and the Regional Transit Service (RTS) called for the inclusion of robust funding for public transit in the final state budget. New York State Assemblymembers Harry Bronson, Sarah Clark, Jennifer Lunsford, and Demond Meeks, and Senator Jeremy Cooney joined RTS CEO Miguel Velázquez for the press conference.

The federal government provided COVID relief funds during the pandemic to help RTS stem losses in ridership and fare revenue, maintain service for the community, and keep the RTS team employed. With these relief funds nearly exhausted and growth in the transit system needed to meet the needs of the community, RTS is asking for at least a 20% increase in transit funding, a fully funded second year of the five-year non-MTA capital plan, and new, sustainable sources of dedicated revenue that allows for growth of the public transit system. A robust increase in transit funding in the state budget will help expand access to critical destinations and services.

Governor Kathy Hochul got the legislative session moving in the right direction by including in her proposed budget a seven percent increase in funding for upstate transit systems. Thanks to the leadership and support of our local members of the State Senate and Assembly, their one-house budgets include 20% and 26% increases, respectively. They include an increase in capital funding beyond what is set forth in the five-year non-MTA transit capital plan, as well as new, dedicated sources of revenue to help funding increases into the future.

Assemblymember Harry Bronson said: “Accessible, comprehensive, and reliable transportation is integral to a well-rounded, equitable community. Public transportation alleviates poverty and increases our workforce. Monroe County and the State of New York needs to invest in and commit to supporting RTS and its employees to ensure that our workforce and community have a reliable alternative to cars.”

Senator Samra Brouk said: “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the delegation as we advocate for an equitable increase in upstate transit funding and for dedicated, sustainable revenues to fund all transit systems across the state. We know that our ability to get from one location to another, especially in communities like ours, is essential in securing employment, seeking healthcare, obtaining an education, and so much more. The final budget must include a 20% increase for State Operating Assistance (STOA) as well as fully fund the non-MTA capital program.”

Senator Jeremy Cooney said: “For too long transit systems in Upstate Cities have been underfunded, the time to right that wrong is now. As we enter the homestretch of budget negotiations it is imperative that we continue to push for increased funding for RTS, and other transit systems. Our constituents rely on RTS to travel to work, school, medical appoints, and so much more. We owe it to our constituents to ensure they are utilizing a fully-funded, highly functional system.”

Assemblywoman Sarah Clark said: “Accessible public transit is vital to everything, connecting our workforce with our businesses, and providing vital transportation for so many in and around our most under-resourced neighborhoods. A strong public transit system also helps mitigate our collective impact on climate change. I am proud to join my colleagues in the greater Rochester majority state delegation and the Regional Transit Service to call for an increase in funding for upstate transit that is more equitable with other regions across the state, so that we can create a sustainable and comprehensive transit system that works for all.”

Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford said: "In the fight for public transportation, Upstate priorities are often ignored. While our downstate neighbors call for 6-minute wait times and free fare bus lines, too many Upstate communities have limited, if any, access to public transit. Today, we demand parity. We need public transportation systems that are consistent and reliable. Public transit is an essential component to our climate action plan, our economic development plans, and our housing plans. Without a robust public transportation network our state cannot reach its goals. Investments in public transportation are investments in communities. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the Assembly and the Senate to call for a hearty investment in Upstate transportation, and I am hopeful that Governor Hochul will recognize how vital these investments are to Upstate communities."

Assemblymember Demond Meeks said: “Public transportation is a vital resource. Safe and reliable transit is a necessity that many members in our community rely on in order to fulfill the various responsibilities of their day to day. Our transit system requires adequate funding to address the growing needs of our constituents. Many of our communities lack essential resources, resulting in traveling long distances in order to meet basic needs. Today, our neighborhoods still lack nearby grocery stores, health care centers, and pharmacies. Investing in public transit is an investment in the communities and the individuals we serve.”

RTS CEO Miguel Velázquez said: “A frequent, reliable, and safe public transit system is a key component to achieving many of our community’s goals when it comes to climate change, economic development, education, equity, health care, poverty, and social justice. One of the best ways to ensure public transit can be a successful partner in those efforts is to ensure it is well-funded. I thank Governor Hochul and our representatives in the State Legislature for their support and ask them to include in the final budget the level of transit funding included in the one-house budgets from the Senate and Assembly.”

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