Commentary

TESTIMONY OF GENE RUSSIANOFF, SENIOR ATTORNEY, NYPIRG STRAPHANGERS CAMPAIGN

Before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board meeting on the MTA's 2000-2004 Capital Program, September 29, 1999

There's a lot that's good in your plan and worthy of public support. But the plan falls short in key areas, from putting off even a partial Second Avenue Subway to 2015 - to not keeping service up to your surge in ridership - to inadequate progress in ending diesel bus fumes. Your plan would also unfairly reduce the city's historic share of transit rebuilding funds.

Your proposal now goes to the state legislature, where we are counting on Speaker Silver and other elected officials to make your plan a better one for riders.


What do riders want? They want you to end the crush.
What do riders want? They want you to end the crush. They want you to run much more frequent and much less crowded service - and they don't want to choke on clouds of diesel bus fumes. Riders jammed into the cattle cars on the 4, 5 and 6 Lexington Avenue lines want a full-length Second Avenue Subway with new connections to other boroughs. "Please sirs," all these riders have the nerve to ask, "We'd like a seat." Or at least not someone's elbow in our ribs.

You can do better than you are proposing in these areas:

  • System Expansion: You propose to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal by 2009. But you wouldn't complete even a partial Second Avenue "Stubway" from 63rd Street to 125th Street until 2015. That's wrong, since the LIRR-GCT link will dump 12,000 more daily morning rush-hour riders on the Lex. This is why you must find a credible plan for building a Second Avenue Subway in tandem with the LIRR-GCT link.
  • City Transit/Suburban Rail: The MTA proposal would significantly change the historical split of transit capital funding between city transit and suburban rail. For the last 20 years, the split has been 77% for New York City Transit and 23% for Metro North/Long Island Rail Road. The new split would be about 69%/31% - resulting in a loss of about $1.3 billion for city transit. That's not fair, given that New York City Transit moves 91% of the MTA's customers, while the LIRR and Metro North combined move 9%.
  • More Service: The good news is that you plan to expand the size of the subway fleet by another 200 cars and increase bus capacity. That's critical to increasing service, especially during rush hours. But the bad news is that you propose to increase service far less than your spectacular ridership gains. The plan says subway and bus service will increase about 8% to 11% between 1996 and 2004. But in just the last three years weekday ridership has already increased more than 36% on buses and 14% on the subways = and even more on the weekends. Your plan must request the cars and buses needed to an end intolerable crowding.
  • Diesel v. Clean Fuel Buses: The good news is that your plan calls for buying 300 clean fuel buses in addition to 500 already planned. The bad news is that there's no clear definition of what kinds of "clean fuel" buses will be purchased, and not enough funding to rehab bus depots to handle Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses. In addition, your plan to buy 400 diesel-powered "articulated buses" is questionable at best.

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Gene Russianoff is the Senior Attorney for NYPIRG Straphangers CAMPAIGN

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