Four Decades of the Straphangers Campaign

Honoring Gene Russianoff and the Campaign's change-making transit advocacy
Please RSVP today! Space is limited.
logo

We look forward to seeing you!

Straphangers Campaign

subway train image

The Straphangers Campaign was founded by the New York Public Interest Research Group at a critical time for New York City transit. By the late 1970s, the City's subways had become unreliable and decrepit. Graffiti covered every car and station. Transit fires and derailments hit record levels. Crime steadily worsened. Ridership plummeted to the lowest level in 80 years. Businesses cited poor transit as a leading reason for moving out of New York. The system had become a symbol of the decline of the City itself.

There has been great progress since then. Today, trains are 20 times more reliable. Ridership has bounced back. Transit crimes, fires, derailments — all have been greatly reduced in the last two decades. In 1997, the transit system started offering free transfers between subways and buses. In 1998, riders received the first fare decrease in the history of the system in the form of unlimited-ride transit passes. As a result, ridership has soared. In 2016, ridership broke records set in the late 1940s.

These improvements did not happen by accident. The Straphangers Campaign played a leading role in building a consensus for scores of billions of dollars in new investments in metropolitan transit — through our rider organizing, coalition building, research, reports, and media savvy. The Campaign is proud of our role in turning around New York City’s transit for the better, and our work is needed now more than ever to keep the system from sliding back into a state of disrepair. The Straphangers Campaign will continue to be a leading voice and a staunch advocate for quality, safe, and affordable public transit.

Honoree

Gene Russianoff
Gene Russianoff photo

Since 1978, Gene Russianoff has been a stalwart leader and unparalleled force in the fight to improve mass transit and reform government in New York City.

As Senior Attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, Gene has helped revive mass transit as a vital engine for the City’s economy and an essential conduit for its residents and visitors — with subway ridership now at its highest level since the late 1940s. This achievement was advanced by his efforts to win, among other important victories: unlimited-ride passes, free subway-to-bus transfers, and $105 billion in funds to rebuild the subway and bus system since 1982.

NY1 named Gene a "New Yorker of the Year" in 1997 for his coalition work to win unlimited-ride MetroCards (see The New York Times article on his efforts), and he was profiled in The New York Times in 2013 and again in 2017. Gene has always taken full advantage of his expert media savvy to garner frequent coverage that shines a light on the urgent need to benefit riders.

In addition, Gene has played a major role in reforming New York City's political system. In 1988, he successfully lobbied for the City’s landmark campaign finance reform law, now a national model. Gene's work also helped result in the creation of the City’s Independent Budget Office. Currently, he co-chairs a coalition advocating for more openness of government in an age of technology.

Gene was awarded the 1994 Public Service Achievement Award by the National Board of Common Cause and was a Charles H. Revson Fellow at Columbia University in 1983. He is a graduate of Brooklyn College (1974) and Harvard Law School (1978).

This horrific, deadly train wreck sparked the creation of the MTA  (New York Post, September 19, 2017)
Informed Archives: The Straphangers Campaign and the NYC Subway System  (The New York Public Library Blog, August 29, 2017)
Transit advocates fume over 'Cuomo Tax' to fund nuke plants  (New York Post, August 26, 2017)
Assembly members call for bus service improvements  (Times-Ledger, August 25, 2017)
Pols to MTA: Don't forget the buses  (Queens Chronicle, August 24, 2017)
New York's Oldest Subway Cars, Beautiful Symbols of a Sad Decline  (The New Yorker, August 21, 2017)
Cuomo considering congestion pricing  (Queens Chronicle, August 17, 2017)
Transit Advocates Say NYC's Missing Out on a "Quick Win" With Buses  (Next City, August 17, 2017)
MTA, DOT efforts to improve bus service receive poor marks from advocates  (Curbed New York, August 15, 2017)
Advocacy groups rate MTA, DOT poorly in new quality report  (Bronx News 12, August 14, 2017)
Cuomo Takes Charge And Goes Down Into The Subway To Point At Problems  (Gothamist, August 10, 2017)
NYC Lawmakers Embark On 24-Hour Riders Respond Transit Tour  (CBS Channel 2, August 3, 2017)
Elected officials to ride subways for 24 hours  (Amsterdam News, August 3, 2017)
MTA boss rolls out more than $800M plan to revive degrading subway system that targets faulty signals, bad tracks  (Daily News, July 26, 2017)
$800 Million Subway Rescue Plan Adds Cars and Subtracts Seats  (The New York Times, July 25, 2017)
MTA unveils multibillion-dollar plan to save the subways  (NY 1, July 25, 2017)
MTA's fix for overcrowded subways - tear out the seats  (New York Post, July 25, 2017)
MTA releases Joe Lhota's reorganization plan to fix subway  (AM New York, July 25, 2017)
MTA subway riders call for end to endless delays and dysfunction  (WABC Channel 7, July 24, 2017)
City releases its own subway turnaround plan ahead of MTA's  (AM New York, July 24, 2017)
News Archive
Join us on November 15, 2017 to celebrate Four Decades of the Straphangers Campaign. RSVP today!
Tale of the Tape: NYPIRG 2017 Legislative Review
Albany Money Machine 2017
NYPIRG Statement on Gov's NYS Health Insurance Pledge
Release: Interactive Website with Local Water Data Goes Live
Statement on NYS Regulations to Curtail Discriminatory Auto Insurance Rates
NYPIRG and other good government groups call for the NYS Senate to end the practice of diverting stipends for committee chairs to other committee members
Former SEC Commissioner on NY AG's Exxon Investigation
50+ NY Lawyers Support AG Schneiderman's ExxonMobil Investigation
100+ Scientists Release Letter Urging AG to Pursue His ExxonMobil Investigation
New Analysis: State Documents Reveal ExxonMobil Pollution in New York State
Release: 350+ groups gather in support of AG's Big Oil investigation
Emphasizing the Massive Cost of Cuomo's Nuke Bailout to Energy Consumers, Albany Advocates Urge State Legislature to Block His Plan & Take His Own Advice on Indian Point: Close Upstate Nuke Plants Too
NYPIRG Reactions to State of the State Addresses
NYPIRG Statement Regarding the Reported Agreement to Close the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant
Trouble In Toyland: 2016 Survey Finds Recalled Toys in Online Stores
New study: closing upstate's aging nuclear power plants can reduce NY's greenhouse gases & save ratepayers money. 'Green' power can dramatically increase safety & job creation.
Analysis: Despite Increase in Voter Registration, Turnout Fell Throughout New York State, Dips Uneven Throughout New York City (source: nypirgstudents.org)
Attend The Only Way Is Up: A Citywide Discussion to Boost Voter Turnout in New York on Friday, November 18th in Manhattan.
Analysis: More New Yorkers Are Registering to Vote; Will Voter Turn-out Remain Low? (source: nypirgstudents.org)
Reports & Features Archive