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Queens legislators urge governor to include MTA fare freeze, free bus funding in final state budget

Mar. 22, 2023 By Bill Parry

Lawmakers from every corner of Queens gathered on March 22 in the state capitol to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to include funding for an MTA fare freeze and a free bus pilot in the final state budget as negotiations continue through April 1.

Legislators from both chambers released their one-house budget proposals last week.

“Our one-house budget proposals delivered historic investments in the MTA. We rejected the $3 fare hike proposed by the governor, proposed investing $50 million dollars in a free bus pilot in New York City and, in the Senate, proposed expanding the Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) program,” Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani said. “These investments will get our constituents where they need to go — whether it’s home, to work, to play, or to a place of worship. We are calling on the governor to protect these investments in the final budget and to expand them — so that we can bring them home to our constituents, working-class New Yorkers who desperately need, and deserve these investments in public transit.”

Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani urges the governor to fix the MTA in the final budget currently in negotiations. (Courtesy NYS Assembly Majority Photography)

State Senator John Liu, a member of the Transportation Committee, spoke of the urgency and necessity to improve transit and increase ridership.

“New Yorkers are sick and tired of overpaying for transit service that continually fails to address basic needs like excessive wait times for buses and trains,” Liu said. “Rather than hiking fares to cover for lagging ridership, let’s fix the MTA with reliability, accountability, efficiency, and let’s make buses free for all, as other major metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C., have already achieved.”

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas noted that the state currently has a surplus of more than $8 billion.

“There’s no reason why we can’t adequately fund the MTA to stave off another fare hike,” she said. “I’m pleased that my legislative colleagues in both the Assembly and Senate included $197 million in funding for a fare freeze at $2.75, and $50 million for a free bus pilot for two routes per borough in both one-house budgets. I call on Governor Hochul to include this funding in the final budget as well.”

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman represents southeast Queens neighborhoods where residents cope with living in a transit desert and a high cost of living.

“With inflation affecting multiple facets of everyday life, the one-house budget proposal to include $197 million in funding the fare freeze at $2.75 and $50 million for a bus pilot program for two routes per borough, would alleviate the pressure of the countless people that commute daily,” Hyndman said.

In January, Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson rallied with his constituents in Far Rockaway for more efficient transit options.

“As a southeast Queens lawmaker and commuter, I know the persistent challenges our working-class residents face for a timely, reliable and affordable commute,” Anderson said. “In my district, ‘outer-borough’ neighborhoods like Far Rockaway and Rosedale suffer among the city’s longest and most expensive commutes. Working-class families in southeast Queens and New York cannot survive, much less thrive, without public transit, and we need to start giving this crucial resource the investment it deserves.”

Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson went on a listening tour aboard MTA buses in southeast Queens in January. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

The Queens leaders were joined by several lawmakers from across the city, including Assemblyman Harvey Epstein from the Upper East Side.

“The legislature and the governor agree we need to fix the MTA. However, our position entering three-way negotiations is clear: we won’t fix the MTA on the backs of straphangers,” Epstein said. “The state needs to step up, freeze fares and go one step further by piloting free buses — a reality in over 100 cities across the world, including in the U.S.”

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Marcela Mitaynes said that both chambers have put forward proposals that show faith in a revitalized transit system.

“Right now, we’re allowed to envision a brighter future that prioritizes working people by making our most crucial services affordable for all. However, in order to make these hopes a reality, we need the governor to follow through and include additional money for the MTA in the final budget,” Mitaynes said. “That’s why I’m proudly standing proudly alongside my colleagues in the state Legislature to demand a budget that includes funding for a fare freeze and free buses. We cannot turn away from working New Yorkers now.”

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