Virtual Testimony to MTA Board: Share Ridership and Financial Data to Support Federal Rescue Funds

     

 

Virtual Testimony of Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany
to MTA Board

Re: MTA Must Share Data on Ridership and Finances to Support Initial $4B Request for Federal Rescue Aid, and Future Requests
March 23, 2020

Good morning, I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable state government — including for state authorities like the MTA.

First, we would like to thank the MTA Staff, Board, and frontline workers for their public service as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit New York. We know you are working long hours to protect New Yorkers by sanitizing and keeping the system running so medical personnel and countless others can continue to treat, protect and keep supply chains open for New Yorkers.

We also thank the MTA for piloting virtual public comment to try to uphold the spirit of the public comment portion of Board meetings. Should meetings continue to be held virtually, we hope that you will learn from this experience to improve public comment for future meetings, as well as ensure that the spirit of the Open Meetings Law is upheld.

Perhaps most urgently, we and many other advocacy groups have joined the MTA in your call for at least $4B in initial emergency rescue funds from the federal government. In our joint letter to the NY Congressional delegation from last week, we said that $4B is the minimum needed. As the crisis continues to unfold, the MTA will need even more to be able to recover financially. The American Public Transit Association is now asking for $16B for the nation’s public transit systems. Given that the MTA has 38% of national ridership, the MTA’s share would be $6B.

This is why our groups are also asking the MTA to release timely and complete ridership and financial information in an open data format so that the advocacy community and our elected representatives have the information necessary to fight for federal funds to save the MTA. This should include daily and weekly ridership and toll numbers, compared to past years, and include farebox and toll revenue losses. The MTA should also show the current lost revenues from dedicated taxes, as well as projected losses, looking at the best, medium and worst-case scenarios, given that this crisis is very fluid. With this information, we will be best able to work with you to secure desperately needed federal funds. Thank you again for your service.