Jan
13

Waiting for the official list of service cuts

By

When the MTA threatened to implement its Doomsday budget a year ago, the cuts — as this PDF shows — were substantial. The agency planned to do away with the W and Z trains, roll back the M to Bay Parkway, shutter some Lower Manhattan stations and generally reduce headways all around. Buses had a it worse with 26 scheduled for a flat-out elimination while numerous others would see weekend and late-night service reductions or cuts.

A year ago today, the agency held its first of eight planned public hearings on the service cuts, and the situation looked dire. The MTA had to close a budget gap of over $1.2 billion that, at one point, was rumored to increase to nearly $1.8 billion. Albany, meanwhile, was stalling on a proper funding package. In a real sense, the situation in 2009 is far from that facing the MTA today in 2010.

This year, the MTA is attempting to close a budget gap much smaller. By all accounts, the gap is between $300-$400 million. It could, if the MTA so chose, easily be covered by a small fare increase, but the agency promised Albany it would not raise fares again until a planned 2011 adjustment for inflation. The body politic could not stomach three or four consecutive years with fare increases. Yet, the media has made the mistake of assuming that last year’s Doomsday budget is the same as this year’s.

In countless stories and reports, those covering transit have talked about Doomsday cuts as though they are back. They mention subway and bus route eliminations as though the MTA will just graft last year’s plan onto this year’s problem. At the start, I too was guilty of this sin, but I’ve realized that the MTA has a different plan in the works. Yesterday, we looked at how the V train could be replacing the M train in north Brooklyn, and today, MTA sources reveal another change to the 2009 Doomsday service cuts.

According to the Daily News, some local bus routes originally believed to be on the block may be spared. Says Pete Donohue:

The Bx34 in the Woodlawn section of the north Bronx and the B25, which runs through East New York, Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, are among the local routes that will be saved under the revised plans, sources said. The Bx10 in Riverdale and Norwood also gets a reprieve, sources said.

But while transit officials have decided to spare some local bus riders, other commuters will be affected, sources said. Additional express bus routes – the most expensive to operate – are likely to be targeted for elimination. Most express buses run between Staten Island and Manhattan.

Donohue’s report seemingly jibes with the story about the elimination of the X32. Although that bus — and many other express offerings — was originally slated for the chopping block last year, the MTA seems to have a more refined approach to the service cuts and adjustments. Instead of trying to do the most to save a lot of money, the agency is looking at cost-effective approaches. That very same X32 is a great example. Between Labor Day and the end of November, that bus carried just 50 people per day at a per customer cost in excess of $50. Even with the Express Bus fare, the MTA is simply bleeding money on those rides. Why keep that bus route and similar ones to it in service?

Right now, we’re simply left waiting. The MTA was legally required to pass a balanced budget in December, and the approved then featured numerous service cuts carried over from last year. By now, though, it’s clear that the agency will revamp its proposed eliminations, and until then, we should reserve judgment on their respective impacts. We know late-night bus riders, express bus customers and some straphangers will be left out in the cold, but we don’t know which ones that will be quite yet.



Categories : Service Cuts

9 Responses to “Waiting for the official list of service cuts”

  1. E. Aron says:

    I don’t remember the exact figures, but didn’t the proposed service cuts reduce operating costs by only a fraction of the total budget gap? Isn’t it abundantly clear that the MTA needs a new source of revenue, namely East River tolls and perhaps congestion pricing?

    • So last year the subway service cuts saved just $25.19 million, but the idea is to spread the pain around. If all seven agencies cut that amount, the MTA would save over $175 million. I think we’ll see a similar menu of cuts across the board.

    • Russell Warshay says:

      East River tolls seems appropriate to me. However, is it a politically viable option, and if so, could it be implemented in time to prevent service cuts?

      • Marc Shepherd says:

        At the moment, bridge tolls are probably not politically viable. The senators who blocked them before, would presumably block them again.

        But if they were approved, even at the 11th hour, I think the MTA would promptly cancel or reverse the service cuts. The same thing happened last year, even though the rescue package took time to phase in.

    • Sharon Silver says:

      You are clueless on this issue. The union has grabbed every increase in revenue at the mta since it’s creation since the 1960’s. Further killing middle class new yorkers with east river tolls will just give the unions and it’s payed off albany leaders to not make the real cuts in the union contract. there are 5 different unions at the bus division alone which dictates how the service operates increasing costs by at least 10%

      • Andrew says:

        Most middle class New Yorkers don’t have cars, and most of those who have cars don’t drive those cars across the East River frequently.

        A far more popular way for middle class New Yorkers to cross the East River is by subway. Bridge tolls would provide a relatively stable funding source that would help ensure that the trains they ride continue to run.

        When middle class New Yorkers do cross the East River, their time is often valuable. In many cases, they would be happy to pay a few dollars if congestion is relieved as a result. Some of them already use the tolled crossings, but the toll-free bridges are often more direct. It doesn’t make sense for them to go out of their way to drive to a tolled crossing just because it’s likely to be less congested – just as it doesn’t make sense for large numbers of drivers who aren’t time-sensitive to take circuitous routes simply to avoid tolls.

        Many middle class New Yorkers ride buses that get tied up in traffic leading to the toll-free bridges. Those middle class New Yorkers would benefit from faster and more reliable bus service if there were bridge tolls.

        Many middle class New Yorkers live and work near the toll-free bridges. Bridge tolls would make their everyday lives more pleasant, safer, and healthier.

        Finally, the toll-free bridges cost a lot to maintain. Shouldn’t those costs be borne primarily, or only, by the people who use them, rather than by class New Yorkers who never use them and may not even own cars?

        But I guess your solution is to let the subway system shrivel up and die. Then a lot more people will have no choice but to drive. I suppose, as (obviously) a motorist, you must think that there isn’t enough traffic congestion already, and that parking is way too easy to find. You may have to wait in line several hours (on a good day!) to get through a chokepoint or to find a parking spot – but at least you save $5!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Second Ave Sagas: There's a Method to Seeming Madness of MTA Service Cuts […]

  2. […] morning, I noted how many who cover the MTA had made the faulty assumption that this year’s service cuts would mirror last year’s. Never mind that the agency had […]

  3. […] this afternoon, the MTA will unveil its reconfigured slate of service cuts. We’ve been waiting on these cuts for a while, and as news has trickled in, we know, for example, that express buses will be axed and […]

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