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At Grand Central, Sen. Clinton Calls for Funding Mass Transit

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Clinton was joined by (l-r) Larry Hanley, of the Amalgamated Transit Union, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and MTA chief Elliot Sander

Surrounded by a throng of curious commuters under the clock at Grand Central Terminal last Friday, Sen. Hillary Clinton held a press conference calling for increased federal funding for mass transit, saying municipalities around the country needed a "federal partner to get us over the hump of increased demand."

On August 1, Clinton introduced the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act to the Senate; it has already passed the House of Representatives. The bill would provide $1.7 billion, including $237 million for New York, to help public transit systems keep fares down and prevent service cuts in the face of rising fuel costs and soaring ridership (download the bill).

"Across America places that thought there would never be much demand for public transit are now finding that there is," said Sen. Clinton. "We can't keep burdening public transit systems without giving them the money they need to run." Noting that "we are living off the investments of a prior time," Clinton added that "it is unacceptable that [mass transit] commuters would be burdened with further fare hikes and service cuts.... Commuters should not be penalized. They're part of the solution."

Asked how the city could increase the capacity of its overburdened mass transit system, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said "buses can be a major component," and spoke of "re-engineering the city's 6,000 miles of streets...to better accommodate buses."

MTA chief Elliot Sander, whose agency is struggling with debt and has already said another round of fare increases is on the horizon, emphasized the need for federal support. "If we don't have a planning process in this country," he said, "we will fall further and further behind."

You can see Sen. Clinton's Sept. 9 testimony on the mass transit legislation before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs here.

Photo: Sarah Goodyear

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