By Kismet Barksdale
December 20, 2010
In a letter to Governor-Elect Cuomo released today, TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen, along with 12 other unions and 14 good-government and transit advocacy groups, called for the new administration in Albany to stop the raiding of dedicated transit funds and and insure the creation of “a vibrant transit system; one that is reliable, safe, fast, clean and can serve as a foundation for strengthening the State’s economy.”
The joint letter, speaking for a majority of unionized transit workers in the State, along with environmental organizations with a wide membership base including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that last year’s withdrawals of $160 million in transit operating funds by the outgoing Paterson administration “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.”
The letter went on to detail additional harm: “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.”
Transportation advocates including Gene Russianoff from the Straphanger’s Campaign formed the third major constituency represented by the letter, and delivered the letter directly to Mr. Cuomo. Their analysis in the letter showed how transit funding has been hammered by the two-year downturn in the local economy, leading to heavy losses in tax revenues.
Transit labor is showing new unity in pressing for a “lock box” for transportation funding as a key priority for 2011.