Cuomo should not use transit funds for anything else when guv

An open letter to Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo:

Congratulations on your election. Our groups wish you success in addressing the many challenges facing New York.

We write to urge that your upcoming 2011-12 state budget ensures that all dedicated transit funds go to transit and are not diverted to other purposes.

That is not the case in the current budget. Twice in the last year, the Paterson administration has raided funds dedicated solely to transit and taken a total of $160 million for other purposes.

The diversion of dedicated transit funds in the fall of 2009 directly triggered the worst transit service cuts in memory. These included axing 36 bus routes; eliminating 570 bus stops; killing all or parts of three subway lines; and burdening millions of city and suburban riders with greater waits, more crowding, extra transfers and longer trips. Commuter rail riders have had their trains eliminated and stops added to remaining trains. Paratransit service for individuals with disabilities has been made even less convenient or, in some communities, eliminated completely.

Our groups understand that New York state faces serious financial woes, but raiding dedicated transit funds is poor policy. These funds were explicitly created to provide the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with a “stable and reliable dedicated funding source.” According to its 2011 preliminary budget in July, the MTA estimated that its dedicated taxes are already raising hundreds of millions below original estimates.

The $160 million taken from dedicated funds were in addition to the decline in these taxes. As a result, city and suburban riders have been hit with three years of fare hikes and city riders now pay the highest fare box burden in the nation. These taxes were enacted for a specific reason: to help pay for subway, bus and commuter operations and transit capital projects. As a matter of principle and practice, the dedicated funds should continue to serve those purposes. This is especially true: We want a vibrant transit system, one that is reliable, safe, fast and clean and can serve as a foundation for strengthening the state’s economy. This same logic would apply to not diverting funds for New York’s road, bridge and tunnel program.

You campaigned on a pledge of restoring honest and ethical government. What could be more basic to good governance than keeping the promise to taxpayers and transit riders that dedicated transit funds be spent for the sole purpose for which they were enacted? One-quarter of the state’s workforce relies on mass transit to get to work.

We urge you to ensure that all dedicated transit funds go to transit and that the $160 million in diverted dedicated transit funds be restored. We appreciate your considering our concerns.

Paul Steely White, Transportation Alternatives

Gene Russianoff, Straphangers Campaign

Joan Byron,Pratt Center for Community Development

Mary Barber,

Environmental Defense Fund

Kate Slevin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign

William Henderson,

Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA

Ricardo L. Gotla, New York League of Conservation Voters

Patricia Bowden,

TWU Local 252

Norman Brown,New York State Council of Machinists

Michael Cordiello,

ATU Local 1181

Arthur J. Davidson,

Metro-North Labor Council

Dean DeVita,NCFO/SEIU 32BJ

Joe Mauro, Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association

I. Daneek Miller,

ATU Local 1056

John Samuelsen,

TWU Local 100

Andrew Sandberg,


Behrouz Fathi, DC 37 Local 375

John Kaehny, Reinvent Albany

P.J. Kim,Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

Peter H. Kostmayer, Citizens Committee for New York City

Joseph Sciascia, SSOBA

Chris Silvera, IBT Local 808

Angelo Tanzi, ATU Local 726

Thomas Wilson, UTU Local 1440

Bob Yaro,

Regional Plan Association

Betsey Swan, New York State League of Women Voters

Arthur Maratea, Transportation Communications Union

Chloe Tribich,

Center for Working Families

Rich Kassel, Natural Resources Defense Council

Cecil D. Corbin-Mark, WE ACT for Environmental Justice