It’s official; baring a government bailout, in 2009, the MTA is going to implement extreme service cuts and raise fares by 23 percent in order to cover a deficit now estimated at $1.4 billion. Additionally, to keep pace with projections, the authority is planning for a 2011 fare hike of at least another five percent.
William Neuman and Sewell Chan were at the MTA Board Meeting this morning and covered the news for The Times’ CityRoom blog. They reported:
The deficit-closing plan, outlined by [MTA CEO and Executive Director] Lee Sander at a meeting of the authority’s board in Midtown, would involve eliminating 2,700 jobs, saving $261 million next year, and “significant cuts that will affect every part of our operation and cannot be sugar-coated.”
For New York City Transit, the biggest component of the authority, the deficit-closing plan would eliminate the W and Z subway lines; eliminate service on the M line to Bay Parkway in Brooklyn; shorten the route of the G line, which will permanently stop at Court Square in Long Island City, Queens, instead of 71st and Continental Avenues in Forest Hills, Queens; lower the frequency of most letter-line trains to every 10 minutes from every eight minutes on weekends; lower the frequency of all trains to every 30 minutes from every 20 minutes from 2 to 5 a.m.; eliminate overnight bus service on 25 routes; and eliminate the X27 and X28 express-bus lines.
Mr. Sander said the route alterations “will result in extra transfers, longer travel times, longer wait times and longer walking time.” Trains would be more crowded. Subway cars would be cleaned less frequently. Station booths would be closed. Bus service would be cut back on weekends and at nights. The express-bus fare would rise to $7.50 from $5. The cost of the Access-a-Ride paratransit service for disabled riders would rise.
The Long Island Rail Road would cut 173 positions, cancel and combine some train lines, reduce service on weekends and off-peak hours and cut train crews. The Metro-North Railroad would cut 88 positions, shorten trains, increase the loading guidelines, slow down the restoration of Grand Central Terminal and cut cleaning and maintenance at the terminal. Fares would rise by 43 percent on the Long Island Bus.
In delivering the bad news, Sander advocated for the agency as well. “No one on this board — and indeed no one should in this room — should leave here today thinking that this mix of service cuts and increase in fares and tolls are actions that I am eager — or that the staff is eager — to implement,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Even in a period of austerity, we cannot afford to lose sight of this simple fact: Continuing investment in the M.T.A.’s capital and operating needs should and must remain one of the highest priorities of our elected officials in New York City and Albany.”
Meanwhile, this plan as presented outlines the shocking ways in which our government just isn’t contributing to transit. According to MTA documents, fare revenue would cover over 80 percent of operating costs for New York City Transit’s subway system. This level of rider contribution is nearly unprecedented among the world’s public or semi-public subway systems.
Sander also stressed the ways in which the MTA must invest in its future as well. While the capital program is funded through a separate budget, the MTA cannot risk halting expansion and modernization plans. “If we don’t have a capital program, we’re definitely on the road back to where we were in the 1970s,” the MTA head warned.
After the jump, the extensive press release from the MTA, detailing the budget cuts. Things are going to get nasty and ugly before they get better.