Home / Opinion / Letter to the Editor / More transit investment needed

More transit investment needed

Dear Editor,
On Oct. 20, we joined with federal, state and local partners to dedicate the brand-new RTS Transit Center. Years in the making, it signals a new era for public transportation and improved quality of life in Rochester. It also provides the foundation for RTS to become the transit system people can build their lives around—to access jobs, education, health care, shopping and the countless activities our region has to offer.

This world-class facility enables our Transit Authority to transition an outdated public transit model and routing system to one that’s highly efficient, providing service where and when customers need it most. In addition to the over 55,000 customers we serve daily, we believe that growing numbers of Rochester residents and visitors of all ages will begin to choose the bus because it’s safe, convenient, accessible, efficient, even enjoyable—and, of course, affordable. At just one dollar a ride, our fare remains the lowest in New York State.

Funding the infrastructure needs of New York is a critical component in the economic revival of our communities. State leaders will soon consider ways to fund multiyear capital programs for Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the state Department of Transportation. New resources are needed to invest in the state’s transit and highway infrastructure, and the state budget windfall from recent insurance settlements can provide a meaningful jumpstart.

The more than 100 transit systems that provide essential mobility services across the state have an aging infrastructure that requires new investments to reach a state of good repair. We have older buses that require normal replacement and transit facilities that need repair. We have “shovel-ready” plans to implement even more new technologies, such as smartcards and mobile fare payment, but in most cases lack the funding for innovations that will improve customer service.

Unlike the MTA and NYSDOT, the rest of the state’s transit systems lack a state-supported, multiyear capital program that provides predictable funding for infrastructure renewal. We rely almost exclusively on federal aid for capital improvements, and the outlook for increased federal resources is dim.

Transit systems have identified $1 billion in infrastructure investment needed over the next five years, with available resources to fund only 44 percent of this need. Increased investment in transit will improve infrastructure conditions, provide more reliable service, reduce maintenance costs and introduce new technology that makes transit easier to use.

Locally, we have an urgent need to build a $9 million service building on our main RGRTA campus to support an increased number of buses in an aging facility, where 40 years of water and salt have caused it to reach the end of its useful life. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has identified the RTS service building as a priority and regionally significant project. State funding is needed to close the $6.2 million funding gap and fully implement this plan.

It’s very good news that transit ridership is on the rise here in our eight-county region and throughout the state. Further service expansions are needed to meet new demand and support economic growth. We stand ready to work with the governor and Legislature to increase transit infrastructure investment and to develop a statewide capital program for all transit systems.

James Redmond
Chairman, RGRTA Board of Commissioners

Bill Carpenter
CEO, RGRTA

11/14/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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