New York’s State budget for fiscal year 2023-24 was supposed to be passed on April 1st but it has been held in limbo for weeks over disagreements between the State Legislature and Governor Kathy Hochul over issues from bail reform, to housing, healthcare and transportation.
As lawmakers attempt to come to a budget agreement, TCAT has joined the New York Public Transit Association (NYPTA) in urging Governor Hochul and state lawmakers to substantially boost investments in upstate transit agencies or closer in proportion to increases being proposed for New York City transit.
In her Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget plan, Gov. Hochul called for State Operating Assistance (STOA) to increase by 7.1 percent for upstate agencies, by 8.5 percent for non-MTA downstate properties, and by 25 percent for the MTA.
However, NYPTA has announced that they are seeking a 20-percent increase in funding for upstate agencies as “transit systems across the state face similar financial challenges as the MTA, including the loss of revenue, impact of inflation, rising capital needs from the costly transition to zero-emission vehicles, and customer demands for greater service frequencies and new mobility options.”
All too frequently, TCAT and other agencies have had to cover operational costs by reassigning federal money originally designated for much-needed capital projects. TCAT has asked riders and stakeholders to contact Gov. Hochul’s office and the local state house delegation to advocate for NYPTA’s proposals that also include:
Enacting dedicated, sustainable revenues, such as casino revenues proposed by Gov. Hochul for the MTA, to fund STOA increases.
Supporting Gov. Hochul’s proposal to invest $10 million in an on-demand pilot program for non-MTA agencies.
Supporting Gov. Hochul’s request for $159.5 in capital funding for non-MTA systems is consistent with the five-year capital plan approved last year.
Continuing STOA’s “hold-harmless” provision for formula systems like TCAT that are impacted by pandemic ridership loss
State Operating Assistance funds are TCAT’s largest single source of funding, approximately 31 percent of its overall $19.2 million operating budget, which is calculated based on ridership and miles traveled. Fare revenue accounts for a total of roughly 30 percent of TCAT’s budget. That includes the $3.3 million payment from Cornell University's annual bus pass program. In addition, the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County, and Cornell University each provide 18 percent of the total operating budget, totaling roughly $2.8 million.
At the end of 2022, TCAT’s ridership was 2.4 million or about 60 percent of what it was in pre-pandemic 2019. After the onset of the pandemic, the state implemented the hold-harmless provision that enabled STOA payments to be calculated using the higher 2019 pre-pandemic ridership numbers.
Unless the hold-harmless provision is extended, TCAT stands to lose approximately $3 million in STOA funding and will continue to lose funding until ridership fully recovers. “While we’ve been recovering ridership gradually, the cost of operating has been accelerating,” said TCAT General Manager Scot Vanderpool. “We need this critical funding to adjust to inflation, adequately compensate our employees in a tight labor market, and provide better service and technologies to retain, recover and attract more riders by giving them the service they deserve.”
TCAT also requires significant investment to implement portions of its 2021 Transit Development Plan to enhance overall service, improve signage and amenities, and to develop on-demand service in low-density areas. TCAT and its community partners recently secured a $7 million grant for an electric mobility project to include on-demand service to underserved neighborhoods in the city. However, far greater investment is needed to provide similar mobility options for underserved populations all across the county
For more information about NYPTA’s proposals, see the complete testimony presented by Bill Carpenter, NYPTA president, to a Joint Hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance and the Assembly Standing Committee on Ways and Means on Feb. 6: https://nytransit.org/images/positionpapers/2023/2023_state_budget_testimony_final.pdf
Now why should the taxpayers outside of Thompkins county have to pay for their transportation? Really? Raise the resident of Thompkins County to provide the service, not mine. No one is offering to subsidized my transportation costs!!
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