MTA Hearing, College of Staten Island, Dec. 3, 2018
I want to thank my fellow Staten Islanders for coming out here this evening. I know it’s not easy to commute home and then have to come to a forum. For every person here this evening, there are probably 100 sitting – or standing -- on an express bus trying to make their way home – not to mention all the families who are home celebrating the second night of Hanukkah this evening. By holding these hearings during a significant religious festival for many New Yorkers, you seem to have picked a time that is designed to keep people away. So it especially important for me to be here this evening to speak not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of my constituents who cannot be here.
We have to call these increases what they really are—another tax increase. Toll and fare increases are regressive tax increases on my hard-working constituents who commute. To add insult to injury, we see no discernible benefit from these repeated tax increases. For many of my constituents, especially those who ride express buses, the commute has only worsened.
These increases would be more tolerable if we had a rapid transit line connecting Mariner’s Harbor and St. George. They would be tolerable if buses arrived according to schedule, with available seats. They would be tolerable if we had multiple transportation options. But instead of rising to meet the increasing needs of our commuters and visitors, the MTA is giving us the same sub-par service, and holding a hearing tonight to ask us how we would like to pay our inevitable increases. In the end, we will all pay more with either transit fare plan—and our tolls will rise 12 percent. Our promise of a North Shore rapid transit, on the other hand, remains in the “study” phase, that is, a line on an unrealized map.
Year after year, we come to you with the same message, and year after year, tolls and fares rise, but service does not. Instead of giving us the illusion of choice here every two years without real transportation choices, I’d like to propose one small but potentially significant choice: Give a toll discount to drivers who travel during off-peak hours. In addition to lightening the financial burden for some, an off-peak discount will give commuters – including the many trucks on our roads – a financial incentive to avoid peak hours. Dozens of jurisdictions around the country have adopted some form of off-peak toll discount. This could potentially alleviate nightmare rush-hour traffic for some. It would not only help the mental well-being of commuters, but it could potentially mean less fuel consumed and cleaner air for all of us.
Again, we’re already paying more than our share, with few available options. Enough with the increases. Give us the rapid transit and efficient bus service that we pay for but don’t receive. Our real transportation needs have been ignored for too long.
Member, New York City Council