Waiting for the official list of service cutsBy
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.