Transit Riders to Albany: Get to Work on a Real MTA Solution

transit_rally.jpgPhoto: Ben Fried.

Yesterday's rally in Union Square drew hundreds of transit riders calling on the State Senate and Albany leaders to enact a long-term solution for the MTA's enormous funding shortfall. Judging by the cheering sections in the audience, most of the crowd was mobilized by the Facebook group "1,000,000 People Against the NYC MTA Fare Hike" and Transportation Alternatives. The Working Families Party, the event sponsor with the most political muscle, sent one representative but no speaker or even a display table for gathering signatures.

With state leaders sending signals that they're ready to accept another stopgap transit plan, the rally was an occasion to remind Malcolm Smith and company that the merits of transportation policy matter. "Albany has been missing in action for almost a decade," Elena Conte of COMMUTE told the crowd, calling out the Senate Majority Leader for making a junket to Puerto Rico in the midst of the MTA crisis. "Show up and do your job so the people of this city can get to theirs."

As Conte and other speakers emphasized, the New Yorkers who have the most to lose from doomsday fare hikes and service cuts are those who can least afford it. "Where I live, we're not talking inconvenience, we're talking survival," said Carl Van Putten, 76, a resident of Hunts Point, where the Bx4 bus line is slated for elimination.

Repeating a theme sounded by Mayor Bloomberg, teachers union head Randi Weingarten, and Kathy Wylde of the Partnership for NYC in a joint letter sent to Albany the same day, TA director Paul Steely White said it's time for the State Senate to buck up. "There is no politically expedient way out of this crisis," he said. "It's time our leaders started making the hard decisions needed to keep 8.5 million straphangers moving."