Four Decades of the Straphangers Campaign

Honoring Gene Russianoff and the Campaign's change-making transit advocacy
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Straphangers Campaign

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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).

Host Committee


Tabitha Decker
Judith Enck
Li Howard
Chris Meyer
Jon Orcutt
Neysa Pranger
Mike Pratt
Joe Rappaport
John Raskin
Larry Shapiro
Pete Sikora
Susan Stamler
Paul Steely White
Michelle Stern
Veronica Vanterpool
Lee Wasserman
Tom Wathen

Special Thanks


Kramer, Dillof, Livingston & Moore
Barak Berkowitz
Susan Stamler & Chris Meyer
Mike Pratt
Rockefeller Family Fund
Michelle Stern
Larry Rockefeller
William Henderson
Professional Staff Congress/CUNY
Transportation Alternatives
Riders Alliance
Dave Fields
Gavin Fraser & Jeannine Kerr
Seth Frazier
Seth Orlow & Myra Freed
Neysa Pranger
Donald K. Ross & Arthur N. Malkin
Bernard & Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust
Benjamin Sussman
AARP New York
TransitCenter
The Subway Might Seem Crowded, But Ridership Is on the Decline  (WNYC, November 16, 2017)
Accessibility Upgrade Exclusion Protested  (Queens Gazette, November 8, 2017)
A Roadmap to the Transit Issues Facing the Next City Hall  (City Limits, November 1, 2017)
America's power centers can't move: What transit meltdowns in New York and Washington reveal about government's ability to solve problems  (CNN, October 27, 2017)
End the awful political gridlock, put the right price on bridges and tunnels  (Daily News, October 24, 2017)
MTA tests locking seats up on L trains during rush hours  (NY1, October 24, 2017)
Queens' slowest bus route could be on the fast track to getting 'Select Bus Service,' mayor says  (Queens Courier, October 20, 2017)
Street Redesigns Aren't a Zero-Sum Game  (Streetsblog, October 12, 2017)
MTA Will Test Fold-Away Benches To Cram More People Onto Your L Train  (Gothamist, October 6, 2017)
MTA to add more space on L line by retrofitting train cars with fold-up seats  (Daily News, October 5, 2017)
Accessibility for disabled riders a huge problem on the subways, advocates say  (NY1, September 29, 2017)
'The Woes on the Bus' book details city riders' frustration 'all through the town'  (AM New York, September 26, 2017)
The NYC subway has an accessibility problem - can it be fixed?  (Curbed New York, September 21, 2017)
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)
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