Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Getting Something Together

In my last blog post, I reprinted a press release from the Empire State Transportation Alliance, one of the few groups holding actions directed at the State Legislature, but tweaked them a little for not having a website. Today I got a new press release about their action pointing me to a website,, where you can fill out a postcard to Governor Paterson.

It seems a little odd to send a note to the Governor when he's pretty much on board. In his State of the State address he seemed pretty satisfied with the Ravitch commission's recommendations. I guess if you send it to him, he can then turn to the Legislature and say "I got this many petitions in favor of the Ravitch plan." Still, you might want to look up your State Senator and Assemblymember by zip code and let them know directly how you feel.

In any case, this web page was set up in December (if not earlier) by the Campaign for New York's Future. It's just a single page on their website, but hopefully it'll be enough. Here's the press release:


For Immediate Release Contact:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 Gene Russianoff, (917) 575-9434, ;

Neysa Pranger at (917) 532-0567, ;

Bennett Kleinberg, (212) 576-2700,

Groups to Legislature: Rescue Transit System

Unless Albany Acts by March, Downstate Fares Will Soar, Service Will be Slashed, and Rebuilding Work Faces Grim Future

Coalition Urges Governor, Legislators to “Keep New York Moving”; Launches New Campaign to Benefit Commuters, New York City and State Economies

ALBANY Two broad coalitions of civic, business, labor and environmental groups gathered here today to urge Governor Paterson and the state legislature to rescue the downstate transportation system or face a deeper and far more serious economic crisis.

The two coalitions -- led by the Empire State Transportation Alliance (ESTA) and the Campaign for New York’s Future -- launched the “Keep New York Moving” campaign and vowed a ‘full-court press’ until state legislature agrees to take action. Campaign partners will aggressively reach out to the public and elected officials through an on-the-ground and advertising effort. The groups already have set up a website,, and they have distributed leaflets to transit riders urging they take action at the site. Thousands of people already have signed the online petition and postcards in support, which were on display during the news conference. Coalition partners also will hold community events, such as funerals for the “death of transit services,” and will visit Albany regularly.

“Riders are looking to Governor Paterson and the legislature to come to our rescue,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. “We urge them to agree on new revenue sources to make sure the costs and benefits of transit are shared fairly.”

The potential impact on riders on the pending MTA “doomsday” budget is staggering. Transit officials say they will vote by late March to raise the base subway and bus fare from $2.00 to $2.50; charge $103 for a 30-day MetroCard (up from the current $81); and make major service cuts, including eliminating two lines (W and Z), shortening three others (G, M and N) – increasing subway wait times and crowding – and eliminating or shortening dozens of bus routes.

Not only would commuters suffer, but the economies of both the city and state would be at serious risk. The current MTA 2005-2009 Capital Plan already has resulted in $29.2 billion dollars in statewide economic activity and sales in municipalities as far north as Plattsburg and west as Buffalo and Rochester. The effect on the downstate economy would also have wide ranging impacts for all New Yorkers. Every $1 billion in MTA capital spending generates 8,700 jobs, $454 million in total wages and $1.5 billion in economic activity in the NYC metropolitan region. Under the MTA “doomsday” budget, almost 30,000 construction jobs would be stripped from the city’s workforce by 2010, which would lower construction spending by 22 percent, putting industry employment at its lowest level in a decade and the effect on state revenues will be disastrous.

“We have a transit crisis on our hands with major service cuts, fare increases and no capital funding available. If not averted, it’s a crisis that will affect every community in the state,” said Kevin S. Corbett, co-chair of the Empire State Transportation Alliance. “The state is going to have to make tough choices for saving the transit system. It is in every New Yorker’s interest to keep transit, and revenues, flowing. We’re looking to Albany for the leadership New York State needs.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is projecting a $1.2 billion deficit in its $10 billion operating budget for 2009 and having no money available for its next $25 billion-plus five-year rebuilding program. The MTA has set a deadline of March 25 for the state legislature to act before the “doomsday” budget goes into effect.

“Even with the investments of the last several years, the transit system still is relying on portions of infrastructure that have been in place for eight decades. We need to ask where we would be today had previous generations of leaders not had the foresight to invest in the transit system, and we must recognize we are still are paying the price for those generations of leaders who did not maintain that investment,” said Denise Richardson, managing director of the General Contractor’s Association of New York. “We are faced with a clear choice: are we the leaders that will make the investment to maintain jobs and create a 21st century transit system or are we the leaders that will skirt responsibility and put New York City’s future as an economic powerhouse at risk?”

“Adequate support for operating, maintaining, and expanding New York's transit system is essential for not only the New York City metropolitan region but also for the economic well being of New York State,” said Jim Melius, President of the New York State Laborers’. “We have procrastinated for too long. We need to provide a solid base of support for the MTA now and for the future.”

“In these tough economic times, fully funding and expanding transit is the key to keeping New York open for business,” said Mary Barber, campaign director for Living Cities at Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s not just essential for the economy; it’s also a green solution that improves the downstate quality of live and residents’ health. It is time to expand the transit lifeline to more people.”

New York City’s transit system keeps virtually all New Yorkers moving since 94% of all commuting within the city use mass transit,” said xx, of the Transit Workers Union. “Transit workers know just how important the system is to the city and state, and we know that the way to keep that commitment is through improving and expanding service, not through cuts that cripple mobility and the economy.”

Recognizing the transit’s system critical role in the health of the downstate region’s economy, last June, Governor Paterson appointed former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch and a panel of experts to examine how the state could meet the MTA’s financial needs,. In December, the Commission released its plan, which recommended bridge tolls on the Harlem and East River bridges, a modest fare increase and a regional payroll tax.

Members of the Keep New York Moving campaign added that they believed that city and state leaders now had the chance to hammer some combination of the proposals into a stable funding program to keep commuter rails, buses and the subways running and growing to meet riders’ needs.

“We will need strong leadership to turn the ideas into reality,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog group. “There will be tough choices, but we must share the transit system’s cost. Everyone benefits from our robust public transportation network, so everyone – including businesses, riders, and drivers – should share the burden of paying for it.”

“Riders already bear an extremely high percentage of the cost of transit service and are now threatened with an even higher burden,” said William Henderson, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. “It is time for our elected officials to back up their statements of support for transit with decisive action to ensure all who benefit from the MTA system will make an appropriate contribution to meeting its operating and capital needs.”

“Full, fair funding for a high-quality transit system is vital to keep New York moving toward a greener, healthier, more prosperous future, especially as we confront climate change, continued population growth and global economic turmoil,” said Michael O’Loughlin, director for the Campaign for New York’s Future. “The Commission’s recommendations should jumpstart action from our elected leaders on a plan that stems the draconian cuts certain in the next few months, while also making the long-term investments that are so essential to New York’s long-term environmental and economic sustainability.”

“With the MTA facing its worst crisis in a generation, business-as-usual will not cut it this time. Unless legislators act now, the riding public will face skyrocketing fares and crippling service cuts,” says Peter Goldwasser, General Counsel and Special Projects Director for Transportation Alternatives.

Those signing on to today’s call for action and joining the “Keep New York Moving” campaign include prominent members of the business, civic and labor community, including the Regional Plan Association, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund, General Contractor’s Association of New York, Campaign for New York’s Future, New York Building Congress, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, Long Island Contractor’s Association of New York State, Natural Resources Defense Council, Construction Industry Council, Associated General Contractors of NYS, Transportation Alternatives, Vision Long Island, American Council of Engineering Companies, New York Roadway Improvement Coalition, New York State Laborers’ Unions, Building Trades Employers’ Association, NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management and Partnership for Sustainable Ports, Inc. (*list subject to revision)

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