The following statement was submitted by Assemblymember-Elect Michael Reilly to the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at a public hearing on proposed fare and toll increases.
“I would first like to welcome you folks to Staten Island. My name is Michael Reilly and I was elected this past November to represent the people of Staten Island’s South Shore in the State Assembly. That being said, I appear before you this evening not just as Assemblymember-Elect, but also as a taxpayer who is fed up with the out-of-control situation at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
For years we have witnessed the rapid deterioration of this city’s transit system, or as is the case on Staten Island, the deliberate creation of a public transit desert which has stifled economic growth and exacerbated our existing congestion issues which will only continue to worsen if nothing is done to correct it. New Yorkers have been forced to accept inadequate service, and each year this board presents an illusion of choice to us taxpayers. These hearings inevitably result in fare and toll increases despite the thousands of New Yorkers who raise their voice in opposition. It begs the question: Does any of this even matter?
Let me be very clear: I am against any increase to bus and train fares or bridge and tunnel tolls until the Metropolitan Transportation Authority demonstrates that they can provide adequate service to us here on Staten Island and across our city. If that is not possible, if it truly cannot be done without taking more of our hard earned money, then this board must present New Yorkers – not just the politicians at the top – with a legitimate plan to restore service to an acceptable level and truly allow us, the people, to decide whether or not an increase happens. That, combined with a top to bottom audit of the agency by the New York State Comptroller in addition to a review from an independent third party, is what I believe to be a sufficient solution.
It is embarrassing that in America’s largest city we cannot properly operate or adequately fund a public transit system; it is embarrassing when our subway stations flood and ceiling tiles fall onto commuters; it is embarrassing when the bus or train is not on time because of a “delay,” causing us to be late for an important meeting; it is embarrassing that suburban communities like Staten Island are so plagued by congestion that we have one of the longest daily commutes in the nation; and it is embarrassing that despite being located in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, our train stations here on Staten Island, such as the Eltingville and Great Kills stations, are covered in filth and falling apart. It is embarrassing and unacceptable.
The reality is that if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority were actually run like a business, none of this would be an issue. In the real world people are held accountable, repeated failure is not acceptable, and innovation isn’t tangled up in red tape. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must get their act together and address the reasons why ridership is dwindling before commuters completely revolt against the system. New Yorkers have only so much to give.
I hope that the board seriously considers the statements made here tonight, along with those from ordinary New Yorkers who rely on public transit to get across our city every day. I thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak.”