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Officials push for public transportation funding

Rochester Business Journal
March 4, 2016

Area transportation advocates, lawmakers and labor and business leaders gathered Friday—at two separate press conferences—to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide additional funding for public transportation in the Rochester and Finger Lakes region.

Cuomo has committed $8 billion to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City and local advocates are calling on him to provide proportional funding.

“Demand for public transportation in our community continues to grow and the community needs us to do more, but the governor’s proposed budget will only allow us to maintain the service we currently provide,” said Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority CEO Bill Carpenter, in a statement. “We are asking the governor for additional funding so we can be the kind of partner the community needs us to be. We want to work with the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative and be part of the solution to achieving self-sufficiency.”

Carpenter did not say how much additional funding the region is looking for but added that RGRTA wants to find new and creative ways to work with lawmakers and partners such as the Center for Disability Rights Inc., Lifespan of Greater Rochester Inc., Reconnect Rochester Inc. and RochesterWorks Inc. to improve and expand service to the community.

“Without accessible transportation options, people with disabilities can become effectively trapped in their own homes, unable to get to work or the doctor’s office or to visit family and friends,” said Stephanie Woodward, director of advocacy for the Center for Disability Rights, in a statement. “As we work to get more disabled people out of nursing facilities and into their own homes in our community, we must ensure that adequate public transit options are available and accessible everywhere people with disabilities want to live.”

Reconnect Rochester president Mike Governale said less than one-third of jobs in the Rochester area are accessible within a 90-minute trip using public transit.

“The unfortunate reality is that we’re caught in a vicious circle where the people who we’d like to convince to ride public transit choose not to because the system is underfunded,” he said, in a statement. “Meanwhile, those who have no other choice—the people who rely on transit—are being underserved and falling deeper into poverty.”

At a second press conference, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Robert Duffy noted that safe, reliable transportation infrastructure is essential to a thriving economy and business success.

“Increasing state infrastructure funding will allow the Greater Rochester region to make the necessary investments to ensure its roads and bridges are properly maintained,” Duffy said, in a statement. “The time for action is now.”

Unions and Businesses United in Construction Executive Director Joe Leone noted that while Cuomo called for increased funding to the MTA and the Department of Transportation capital budgets in January, the $22.1 billion DOT proposal does not achieve parity across the state.

“Additionally, in the current two-year DOT budget, our region receives a disproportionately low allocation and we seek to work with the Department of Transportation and others to rectify this inequality,” Leone said.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren noted infrastructure funding is critical to the city’s mission to create more jobs, vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities.

“With the state’s help, we have been able to undertake projects crucial to the success of downtown and our neighborhoods,” Warren added. “We are hopeful that once state budget negotiations conclude, essential Rochester projects will be funded.

Four key transportation priority projects were highlighted, included the 390/490/Lyell Avenue interchange project, Mount Read Boulevard, State Route 77 and State Route 96 projects.

“We are currently making meaningful progress on infrastructure projects here in Monroe County using our local tax dollars, but there is more work to be done,” Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said. “To continue making necessary infrastructure improvements, the state must reinstate funding to parity between the Metropolitan Transport Authority and the New York State Department of Transportation.

“Investing in infrastructure is not only about repairing roads and bridges, but it also means investing in our jobs, community, and future.”

(c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail

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