Senators propose emergency aid for mass transit

A train arrives to the Astor Place station early Friday, Dec. 16, 2005 in New York. (AP Photo/ Dima Gavrysh)

May 25, 2010 10:46:55 PM PDT
Senators from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have introduced a bill that would reverse transit service cuts and layoffs.

The Public Transportation Preservation Act would provide $2 billion in emergency assistance for mass transit, including nearly $350 million in new federal funding for the MTA and $125 million for NJ Transit.

"New York's mass transit system has been devastated by a consistent lack of funding by the City, State, and the Federal government," Local 100 President John Samuelsen said. "The Public Transportation Preservation Act would correct that, and reverse the service cuts and layoffs that are taking such a huge toll on transit systems around the country." important stand."

The emergency assistance could restore service and hold off future fare hikes on commuters throughout the New York City subway system, Long Island Railroad and Metro North Railroad. The MTA's service cuts have been phased in over the last several weeks and additional cuts are expected to continue into June.

Keep America Moving (, a national coalition of members of transit unions, environmentalists, and faith-based groups, lobbied to see the act introduced in Congress.

"Mass transit is the very lifeblood of the New York and our ability to rebuild the economy and get people back to work is linked to a fully funded and affordable system," New York Senator Charles Schumer said.

NJ Transit instituted fare hikes of 25 percent for train and interstate bus riders and 10 percent for light rail and local bus riders this month. Discounts for round trips outside of peak riding hours also were eliminated, leading to increases of up to 64 percent for some rail commuters. Thirty-one trains were taken out of service just this week.

"Cutbacks at NJ Transit has made transit service for New Jerseyans more expensive and less accessible. This is a moment in which we should be investing in our public transportation, not undermining it," Senator Menendez, who is chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee with jurisdiction over mass transit said.

State and local governments have been hit hard by the downturn in the economy and public transportation systems nationwide are experiencing major budget cuts as a result. The American Public Transportation Association reports that since January 1, 2009, 84 percent of public transit systems have either raised fares, cut service or are considering those options.

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Jack Reed (D-RI).