The subways certainly aren’t known for their cleanliness. (Photo by flickr user Lanamaniac)
The MTA knows that it needs to increase subway service while facing a budget deficit. While bus expansion plans have kept pace with population growth, subway service hasn’t followed suit. Now, after one fare hike and with the threat of another looming, the MTA is going forward with some service expansion plans.
Meanwhile, the MTA is also facing a budget deficit that could see the agency’s bottom line reach record levels of debt. With Wednesday’s MTA Board meeting set to focus on budgetary concerns, New York City Transit is gearing up to approve its own budget with various services — but not subway service — facing the axe.
amNew York’s Matthew Sweeney took an in-depth look at how New York City Transit plans to save money behind the scenes to not only provide riders with more service but to meet budget deficits that could reach a billions dollars. He reports:
New York City Transit is expected to vote Monday on its budget-savings plan that would halt plans to repair 19 stations, put off paint jobs for flaking elevated structures, and institute a more “efficient” way of cleaning subway cars…
Many of the cuts, however, will take place behind the scenes and delay needed repairs to transit buildings that keep the system running, such as tunnel vents, bus depots, and a subway-car overhaul shop…
Another $8.9 million in savings will come from the MTA’s operating budget. The savings, which will fund increased service on certain train lines, include subway car cleaning and quality control.
For their part, the MTA says that riders won’t notice the changes brought about by the cuts. “None of the reductions will have an impact on what riders see,” Paul Fleuranges, NYC Transit spokesman, said to Sweeney in an e-mail.
I hope that is indeed the case, but I worry when I hear that subway car cleaning efforts may be re-examined. Subway cars aren’t that clean to begin with; my Saturday night Q train this week was a mess. Anything worse would make the cars resemble the T cars in Boston.
While the MTA will go ahead with the vital projects — the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation, for example, is not in jeopardy — I’m guessing that the planned improvements along the Q/B Brighton line will be shelved for now. Local officials will be up-in-arms about these cuts.
Overall, the MTA believes that these cuts to some capital projects could clear up $2 to $3 billion in savings to meet budget deficits in its current plan. There is a chance that big-ticket items — Second Ave. Subway, East Side Access plan — could face delays as well, but the MTA is hoping to avoid that scenario. The city needs subway expansion plans, and with the government set to contribute money earmarked for these projects, it’s growing harder for the MTA to delay or even shelve them entirely as they’ve done in the past.
In the end, the MTA is technically cutting service. But as we originally feared, they aren’t cutting subway service. Instead, they’re cutting services while adding more trains, and we’re left questioning Albany’s commitment to funding the MTA and public transit in New York. As MTA Board member Andrew Albert said to Sweeney, “You have to be concerned about the lack of funding support from the state and the city. They want all of these improvements and then they scream when we raise fares. They have to come up with more money.”