Now that the MTA has a $40 million operating surplus, everyone wants a piece of the action. The TWU has already argued that this one-time windfall should go toward a raise for all unionized employees, and politicians from all over New York are clamoring for a rollback of the 2010 service cuts. One story from Brooklyn though highlights the hypocrisy of the whole thing and the need to figure out just what services should be restored.
Last week, a group of Brooklyn officials gathered to rally for the B37. The Brooklyn Eagle was on hand to file a report. Paula Katinas writes:
One lawmaker, state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Brooklyn-Staten Island), indicated that she’s not above playing a little hardball with the MTA to get the B37 bus back. Savino, whose district includes a section of Bay Ridge, told local residents at the May 19 rally that she wants to extract a promise from MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast nominee that he would restore the shuttered bus line and other transit services when he faces the state senate at his confirmation hearing in two weeks. Governor Andrew Cuomo nominated Prendergast to replace Joseph Lhota, the former MTA chairman who is now running for mayor.
“The only way to get that job is through the New York State Senate,” she said, hinting that she’ll give Prendergast a hard time if he doesn’t cooperate. “It’s time for us to get back on the bus,” Savino said.
The B37 bus ran from Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn until the MTA eliminated the bus line in 2010 during a major budget cutting move in which dozens of transit lines were scrapped. The B37 ran on Third Avenue for a long portion of its route and lawmakers and transit advocacy groups charged that the elimination of the bus line is a hardship for senior citizens and the physically disabled who can’t use the R train on Fourth Avenue as an alternative because they can’t navigate the subway stairs. The R train stations in Bay Ridge and Sunset Park are not equipped with elevators.
I’ve highlighted Savino for a reason, and I’ll return to her for a second. The rest of Katinas’ story focuses on the interest groups fighting for the return of the B37. They include seniors who cannot navigate the Bay Ridge subway stops and merchants along 3rd Ave. who understand the need for public transit along their commercial corridor.
It’s hard to say in a vacuum if they’re right. After all, the MTA cut the B37 because barely 3000 people per weekday rode it, and the agency was losing significant money while operating the route. As the MTA addresses this $40 million surprise, its planners will have to figure out how to boost service without re-implementing too many routes that ran empty or near-empty most of the time.
But let’s get back to Savino. In the past, she has freaked out over the plans to send the 7 to Secaucus while Staten Island remains without a subway connection to Manhattan, but that’s hardly her worst offense. In 2010, when the MTA had to cut service, Savino admitted that she voted for a bill that striped $143 million from the agency’s coffers without bothering to read or understand it first. She eventually owned up to the mistake, but the damage was done.
If Savino were alone in her hypocrisy and dereliction of duty, perhaps transit would be better off in New York City, but she’s not. Countless state representatives refuse to stand up for smart investment in the network and argue for spending only when the MTA is flush with money. That’s no way to build a transit system.