Last month marked the 58th Anniversary of federal government support for public transportation. The success of public transportation can be traced back to one of the late President Lyndon Johnson’s greatest accomplishments which continues benefiting many Americans today. On July 9, 1964 he signed the “Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964” into law. Subsequently this has resulted in the investment over time of several hundred billion dollars into public transportation.
Millions of Americans today on a daily basis utilize various public transportation alternatives. They include local and express bus, para transit vehicle, ferry, jitney, light rail, subway and commuter rail services. All of these systems use less fuel and move far more people than conventional single occupancy vehicles. Most of these systems are funded with your tax dollars thanks to President Johnson.
Today we have the MTA and its various operating agencies, including New York City Transit subway, bus and Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, MTA Bus along with Nassau County’s NICE bus system. Chartered by the State Legislature in 1965 as the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority, it was created to purchase and operate the bankrupt LIRR. The MCTA changed its name to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968 when it took over operations of the New York City Transit Authority. Previously, in 1953 the old New York City Board of Transportation passed on control of the municipal subway system, including all its assets to the newly created New York City Transit Authority.
In Nassau County, we have Nassau Inter County Express (NICE) and City of Long Beach bus systems. In 1973, Nassau County purchased equipment, routes and some facilities of numerous private bus operators, most of whom were experiencing financial difficulties. These private bus operators included Bee Line, Rockville Center Bus Corporation, Utility Lines, Schenck Transportation, Inc., Hempstead Bus Corporation, Jerusalem Avenue Bus Lines, Universal Auto Bus, Roosevelt Bus Lines, Stage Coach Lines, Hendrickson Bus Corporation and others. Nassau County followed up that same year entering into a lease and operating agreement with the MTA to continue providing local bus service. This resulted in creation of the Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority. MSBA was followed by Long Island Bus and as of Jan. 1, 2012, Nassau Inter County Express. Many of the same routes operated by MSBA. LI Bus and NICE can be traced back to the various private bus operators.
Suffolk County has Suffolk County Bus and Town of Huntington Area Rapid Transit (HART) Bus.. There is also New Jersey Transit, Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) subway, New York City Departments of Transportation Staten Island Ferry and Economic Development Corporation private ferries.
Using MTA Metro or OMNY Cards provides free transfers between the subway and bus. This has eliminated the old two-fare zones making public transportation an even better bargain. Purchasing a monthly LIRR or MTA subway/bus pass reduces the cost per ride and provides virtually unlimited trips. Employers can offer transit checks which help subsidizes a portion of the costs. Utilize this and reap the benefits. It supports a cleaner environment.
Many companies allow employees to telecommute and work from home. Others use alternative work schedules which afford staff the ability to avoid rush hour gridlock. This saves travel time and can improve mileage per gallon. Join a car or van pool to share the costs of commuting.
The ability to travel from home to workplace, school, shopping, entertainment, medical, library etc. is a factor when moving to a new neighborhood. Economically successful communities are not 100 percent dependent on automobiles as the sole means of mobility. Seniors, students, low and middle-income people need these transportation alternatives. Investment in public transportation today contributes to economic growth, employment and a stronger economy. Dollar for dollar, it is one of the best investments we can make.
What better way to honor the late President Johnson and all that has been achieved these past 58 years in public transportation by continuing funding the federal Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer, who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, MTA Bus along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ.