March 26, 2021
During a press conference today, New York State lawmakers and the Regional Transit Service (RTS) called for increased funding for public transit in the state budget, citing the role of transit in the recovery and growth of the economy. New York State Senators Samra Brouk and Jeremy Cooney, and Assemblymembers Harry Bronson, Sarah Clark, Jennifer Lunsford, and Demond Meeks joined RTS CEO Bill Carpenter for the press conference.
RTS, and all of New York’s transit systems, are asking for their funding to be increased by 10 percent above the level included in the 2020-21 enacted budget. This is consistent with the request from the transit systems for a 50 percent increase in funding over 5 years.
“Investment in transit is good for community growth and driving many from poverty to prosperity,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson. “Investment in transit delivers more connections to jobs, healthcare, education; more reliable service; and creates and retains thousands of jobs in the state’s transit manufacturing and supply industry. For transit to be successful in meeting the state’s goals, greater investment in both service and infrastructure are essential.”
“Public transit is the beating heart of a community, and here in the 55th District, RTS provides a lifeline for residents who are traveling to work, to go grocery shopping, to access healthcare, and to provide care to loved ones,” said Senator Samra Brouk, SD-55. “I am thankful for the tireless RTS workers who keep our region running, in particular, during the last year as we battled the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate’s one-house budget affirmed the value of public transit, as we rejected the Governor’s proposed cuts to transportation aid and augmented funding designed to transition our state’s transit fleets to all-electric. Our communities rely on a public transit system that is functional and accessible, and I am proud to support RTS in its work to serve residents of the 55th District.”
"As someone who grew up in the City of Rochester, I — like many of my RCSD classmates — depended on the bus system in our daily lives,” said Senator Jeremy Cooney. “Reducing or cutting the investment into a public good at a time when Rochesterians need it most is short sighted and will potentially set us back. We must continue to commit ourselves to improving our public transit by modernizing our fleet which will increase access and help us be stewards of the environment by moving us closer to a zero-emissions system.”
"The Regional Transit Service provides a service for so many in our community that is critical to their day-to-day lives,” said Assemblymember Sarah Clark. “Throughout the pandemic, at a time where other transit systems across the state cut back services and raised costs, RTS displayed incredible leadership and remained committed to providing essential services throughout the Greater Rochester region, while also maintaining the safety of riders and transit personnel alike. RTS stepped up to meet these challenging times, now the state must step up and provide them with the resources they need. State operating assistance must be restored and increased to reflect the growing needs of RTS. Now is the time for the state to demonstrate its commitment to public transit services and invest in an equitable recovery for all."
"For too long our Upstate public transit systems have been left behind,” said Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford. “This past year has shined a light on the importance of public transit to our economy, to our climate, to social justice and towards our fight to end poverty. I stand with RTS and my colleagues in the fight to ensure our public transit system gets the funding it needs for essential capital improvements, expansion of their fleet to include more zero-emission vehicles and to provide services to our community."
“During the pandemic, Rochester’s public transportation system ensured that our community members had continued access to healthcare facilities, grocery stores, and pharmacies,” said Assemblymember Demond Meeks. “Our essential workers relied on RTS and they delivered. When Rochestarians suffered extreme financial losses, RTS offered transportation free of charge to riders. To ensure greater accessibility and a healthier planet for all RTS is working to increase bus routes and introduce green buses. RTS is a vital resource to Rochester and Monroe County, and inadequate funding will fall heavily on the shoulders of the poor and working class. We must sustain this vital resource and fully fund RTS.”
“Public transportation provides a lifeline to access jobs, food and health care, and plays a key role in helping our community reopen, recover, and grow,” said RTS CEO Bill Carpenter. “Robust transit service will drive growth in jobs and the economy, address climate change, improve social equity, and move people from poverty to prosperity. That is why we need more funding. On behalf of the RTS team and our customers, I thank Governor Cuomo and our representatives in the State Legislature for their support, and for their efforts to accelerate investment in transit.”
When COVID-19 emerged in our region, many businesses and organizations closed or transitioned to working from home, but throughout the pandemic, the public transit system kept running. RTS responded immediately to the crisis, transporting essential workers, and providing a lifeline to access jobs, food, and health care.
In addition to state operating assistance for transit being reduced over the past year, RTS saw significant losses of ridership and revenue. At the same time, RTS’ budget absorbed the increased costs of protective equipment for employees, and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of vehicles and facilities to help keep people safe.
Thanks to the leadership and support from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Congressman Joe Morelle, and many other members of our Congressional delegation, RTS received funding from the Federal Government that is making it possible to maintain service during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as more people are vaccinated and more businesses resume normal operation, it will be more important than ever that they have access to robust public transit that ensures safe, reliable mobility.
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