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Council Members Join Push For Six-Minute Transit Service And Free Buses

12:01 AM EST on January 27, 2023

City Council Member Tiffany Cabán (at podium), with Council Members Amanda Farías and Christopher Marte, asking what’s the deal with mass transit funding. Photo: Dave Colon

The state legislative effort known as the Fix the MTA picked up city support on Thursday from 19 City Council members asking Mayor Adams to include the bills that would fund free bus service, six-minute transit and provide enough money to fill the MTA's fiscal hole in his Albany agenda this year.

"The MTA is the lifeblood of our city, serving tens of millions of riders on billions of trips each year," Council Member Tiffany Cabán of Queens and 18 colleagues wrote in a letter to Hizzoner. "It is not just the largest transit authority in America, but the largest public transit authority in the world by number of stops. Just as fund libraries and schools, we must fund transit — a public good that creates access to opportunities in life. On behalf of our constituents, we ask that you advocate to 'Fix the MTA' in Albany."

Given that Adams cut library funding in his budget, that probably wasn't the best metaphor, but a handful of the letter signees pressed their case with a rally in front of City Hall as well.

Cabán said six-minute service connects squarely to Adams's favorite subject, public safety.

"We recently had what we call a citizen's assembly and the thing that kept coming up in terms of what made our neighbors and the district feel safe or unsafe had a lot to do with how good the [subway] service was, how long they had to wait alone on platform at odd hours because of work or childcare or anything else," she said. "We know by creating good, fast, consistent service where there's lots of people around to take it, having people around you improves safety, So for me, this is a critical public safety initiative."

The Fix the MTA package is a collection of eight bills that deal with MTA governance and financing which was introduced by Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani and Sen. Mike Gianaris in December. The biggest attention-grabber is a funding bill that would make possible six-minute off-peak service for subways and buses, implement free bus service over a four year period and fill the MTA's multibillion-dollar fiscal hole that starts at $600 million this year and hits more than $1 billion in each of the following five years.

State legislators, Albany wags and transit nerds are currently waiting to see what kind of MTA funding proposal Gov. Hochul will include in her executive budget proposal next Wednesday. The governor has been tight-lipped about what she's going to do to fulfill the promise in her State of the State to "put the MTA on sound fiscal footing for many years to come."

As they wait for the what and how, Council members said their rally on Thursday was a message to Albany that they want to see the governor fulfill that promise. Council Member Amanda Farías, who recently introduced a resolution asking the state legislature and governor to fund six-minute service, said the resolution and the letter showed a unified front for fully funded transit service.

"Most times, we don't really get to have a lot of interactions between what's happening in [Albany] and what's happening in the City Council, but we can put in a resolution that shows both the mayor and the governor that if you want our community, our residents to be happy with what you're doing for them, you have a bunch of Council members that are demanding [transit funding] and that are willing to make sure we're an active partner in the interaction and in the engagement and implementation of it," she said.

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