MTA Budget Proposes Severe Service Cuts, Perpetual Fare Hikes

sander1.jpgElliot "Lee" Sander

As expected, the proposed 2009 MTA budget is rife with grim news. In addition to various cutbacks at the administrative level, the budget and 2009-2012 financial plan — minus an infusion of aid from the city, state or federal government — will have a direct impact on transit customers in the form of service reductions and fare increases. From today’s press announcement:

"The
budget presented today fulfills the MTA’s responsibility to put forward
a balanced budget for the coming year,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA
Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer. "While we attempted to
identify the least harmful cuts possible, they will be painful and no
one at the MTA is eager to implement them. Even in a period of
austerity, continued investment in the MTA’s critical operating and
capital needs must be a top priority for elected officials in Albany,
New York City and Washington. That is why Governor Paterson appointed
the Ravitch Commission, and we will work hard to ensure that its
recommendations are implemented to restore financial stability to the
MTA. It powers our economy and we cannot allow the system to move
backward at this critical moment."

"The
proposed budget presents the MTA Board with extremely tough choices
that we must grapple with over the next month," said Chairman H. Dale
Hemmerdinger. "We have an obligation to pass a balanced budget, but we
all hope that service cuts and extreme fare increases can be avoided.
We will be closely watching the Ravitch Commission and will support its
efforts in any way we can, both on the operating budget and also on the
critical capital program, which cannot be forgotten."

Before
any gap-closing measures are implemented or prior-year carryover is
included, the MTA’s budget deficits are projected to reach $1.441
billion in 2009, $2.394 billion in 2010, $2.647 billion in 2011, and
$2.972 billion in 2012.

Further details are to be worked out "in the coming months," but the plan calls for a 23 percent increase in toll and fare revenue, with regular alternate-year increases to begin in 2011.

Also on the table:

  • Paratransit fares will increase to twice the regular base fare, "as allowable by law and consistent with other bus agencies"
  • Express bus fares will increase from $5 to $7.50
  • Long Island Bus fares will increase by 20 percent "over and above the general proposed fare increase in the absence of additional support from Nassau County"

At the same time, the MTA has proposed the following cuts in NYC Transit service.

Subways:

  • Route modifications – shorten G, operate N via Manhattan Bridge late nights, eliminate W and extend Q to Astoria, operate M to Broad rush hours, eliminate Z, add J local service.
  • Increased headways and loading guidelines during non-rush hours – headways increase from 8 to 10 minutes on ADEFGJMNQR on Saturdays and the ADEFGNQR on Sundays; headways increase from 20 to 30 minutes from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Reduced station booth and station customer assistant staffing; elimination of enhanced station area track cleaning program.

Buses:

  • Reduce or eliminate low ridership services, especially during weekends or late night, and services that largely duplicate subway service. (Specifics have appeared in the News and Post.)

Commuter rail lines would be affected as well, with reductions in staffing, cleaning and maintenance.

Today’s announcement is posted on the MTA web site, where the full budget is "soon" to appear. A final decision on the proposed budget will be made on December 17, after the much-anticipated Ravitch Commission report, and the state executive budget, are released.

City Room has more from this morning’s MTA board meeting.

File photo: Brad Aaron

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