Since Democrats took full control of the state government in Albany on January 9, they have been working overtime, already passing the Reproductive Health Act, GENDA, and voting reform. All of these major pieces of progressive legislation are necessary to push back against the regressive policies coming out of the federal government. They’re part of an agenda that will make New York State a progressive beacon for the nation, and that agenda needs to include better support for public transportation across the State.
In more normal times, the federal government gives money to local transit agencies for capital improvements like new buses, shelters, and bus lanes. When the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council recommended that Centro run a new Bus Rapid Transit service, it picked out Small Starts—a Federal Transportation Administration program designed exactly for this kind of project—as the best place to get the money to build it.
Of course, these aren’t normal times. The current FTA is acting in bad faith, holding back money that it had already promised to local transit agencies:
“FTA’s position for next year’s budget is that the pipeline of transit projects should grind to a halt completely, leaving cities and communities on their own to raise yet more local funding than they already have to complete their projects.”
Because public transportation empowers poor people, because it’s most useful in cities, because it’s environmentally responsible, regressive federal politicians are defunding it in cities across the country.
Clearly, Centro isn’t going to be able to work with this administration’s FTA to provide the kind of bus service that Syracuse really needs—multiple high-frequency routes connecting the City’s most populous neighborhoods to its centers of employment, signal priority at stop lights, new shelters that tell riders when the next bus is coming, dedicated bus lanes.
And so the same logic that has made it necessary for New York State to pass a law like the Reproductive Health Act also makes it necessary for New York State to increase its support for public transportation. Good bus service is necessary for a progressive society, it’s under attack from a regressive federal government, and New York State has the power and the responsibility to protect and advance it.