Thursday 1 December 2022
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RTS, State Lawmakers Support More Funding for Public Transit

By Tracie Isaac

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New York state lawmakers and the Regional Transit Service (RTS) would like to see a more substantial budget for public transit in the final state budget.  

NYS Assemblymembers Harry Bronson, Sarah Clark, Jennifer Lunsford, Demond Meeks and Senator Jeremy Cooney joined RTS CEO Bill Carpenter to say there needs to be more reliable and affordable public transportation for the community who depends on it.

“Our public transit system is an essential resource, both economically and socially,” said Assemblymember Demond Meeks.  “Thousands of members of our community depend on public transportation service to access local resources and opportunities for employment.” 

Meeks said he and other officials will fight to secure it in the final budget.

It is reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many community residents turned to public transportation out of the need for mobility safety.  The population that uses transit needs to access essential destinations like employment centers, medical and mental facilities for services and appointments, grocery stores and other retail locations.  Substantially increased funding in the state budget will support expanded access to these critical destinations, officials say.

“Public transportation is the mobility safety net for so many in our community because they rely on us to get to work, school, medical appointments, the grocery store and to pick up their children from daycare,” Carpenter said.  “Robust transit that is frequent, reliable, and connected drives job growth and economic recovery.  It opens up access to critical mental health services.  It helps people transition from poverty to prosperity.  And it provides a lifeline for senior citizens who want to maintain their independence…”

RTS is also asking for an additional increase in state operating assistance, which will be allocated for a five-year capital plan to address the growing capital and infrastructure needs.  The additional funds will be earmarked for RTS upgrades of older facilities, building new facilities and to reach an investment goal by 2035 to transition to zero-emission vehicles.

Governor Kathy Hochul led the session with positive news in her proposed budget with a 36 percent increase for the downstate suburban systems and a 13 percent increase for the upstate systems.  Local members of the State Senate and Assembly presented their respective one-house budgets which included a 36 percent increase for upstate systems to match the increase of the downstate systems.  Lawmakers and transit systems have just under two weeks left to finalize the state budget and are working to ensure the increased funding level included in the one-house budgets is also included in the final budget.

Brouk said investing in transit means we are investing in families, jobs, education and the overall wellness of our community.

“Across our community, individuals and families rely on public transit to get to and from work, school, appointments and more.  This is especially true for Black and Brown communities, many of which have been historically neglected and have minimal resources within walking distance,” she said “There must be parity between the funding that upstate and downstate transportation systems receive.”

Bronson said he is committed to delivering for upstate public transit in this year’s budget and stands with the Greater Rochester Area State Delegation partners.   “Investing in upstate public transit is good for the environment, our educational institutions, and our regional economy…” “With this increase in funding we are creating more parity between upstate and downstate public transit funding.  Upstate public transit is the great equalizer – more families will have reliable transportation because of this funding increase,” 

“…Workforce development requires reliable transportation to and from work,” said Lunsford. She said that transit dollars are essential to the recovery plan of our economy and the increased funds will go a long way towards helping the community rebound.

“I am also proud to support additional funding in the Assembly one-house budget, including $20.7 million above the Governor’s proposal for Upstate transit, and $100 million over five-years to maintain that $20 million increased funding level,” said Lunsford.  

“I want to extend a huge thank you to Governor Hochul for hearing our concern and understanding the importance of public transportation to places like Monroe County!”