Nearly two weeks ago, Richard Ravitch released his commission’s report upon the city. His forward-thinking recommendations called for a slight fare increase along with a payroll tax and East River crossing tolls to fund the $1.2 billion gap in the MTA’s operations budget and some of the capital campaign. Since then, New York politicians have done nothing but grandstand on the report, and the MTA is moving closer to affecting massive service cuts and fare hikes.
On Wednesday morning, the MTA Board will meet to approve a budget for 2009. By law, this budget must be a balanced one, and since no one has yet to act on the Ravitch recommendations or any of the alternative plans, the budget will, for now, feature reduced service and extreme hikes.
On Monday, the MTA’s Finance Committee approved sending this drastic budget to the full board for a vote. Both NY1 and the Daily News reported on various features of the budget. First, the good news. According to Bobby Cuza, the MTA has scaled back the fare increase for the Express Buses. Originally pegged at $7.50, up 50 percent from the current $5 fare, the plan now includes a 25 percent increase. The Express Buses may wind up costing $6.25 before 2009 is out. “We have to make priorities and the priority I think that this sets is, pain will be shared equally, however bad it may be,” Jeffrey Kay, an MTA Board member, said to Cuza.
Pete Donohue, however, had the bad news: Many stations along the BMT in Lower Manhattan will shutter overnight and over 150 stations will see reduced staffing levels:
Cuts include removing customer assistants from turnstiles and MetroCard machines, the MTA plan says. The MTA’s proposed budget also would close or reduce the hours of full-time token booths at dozens of stations, potentially resulting in longer lines.
The four stations that will go dark between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. affect N train riders on the Broadway Line: City Hall, Cortlandt St. and Rector St. in Manhattan, and Lawrence St. in downtown Brooklyn. The Cortlandt St. station is closed for construction.
Parts of three complexes used by N trains late at night would be shuttered: Canal St. and Whitehall St. in Manhattan, and Court St. in downtown Brooklyn. The N train will stop at Canal but on an express track. At Whitehall and Court Sts. riders could use a connecting passageway to take trains on other lines.
But for all this talk of cutting, the MTA would rather not implement this budget, and they have time not to. The Board won’t vote on the fare hike until March, and it won’t go into effect until June. The state legislature, as various MTA officials have stressed, need to act, and they need to hear from a public that wants them to act.
“Our fervent hope,” MTA Executive Director & CEO Lee Sander said, “is that the legislature will adopt the Ravitch recommendations, that we will not have to do this. We share your outrage.”