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January 27th, 2009


by Joelle Panisch

Spreading the word.

Members of the Transport Workers Union manned Metro stops in Brooklyn today, handing out flyers protesting service cuts in the MTA’s 2009 budget, warning that the lack of service will have dire effects on both riders and the economy.

This comes after months of debate and dread over how to manage the 2009 MTA budget with a reported deficit of close to $1.2 billion—hundreds of millions higher than projected in July.

In November the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Chief Executive, Elliot G. Sander, called the authority’s proposed budget “draconian,” and few would accuse him of being hyperbolic. In December, the MTA passed its “doomsday budget” by a vote of 13 to 1, which included both drastic fair hikes and service cuts.

The MTA’s fiscal crisis is just another domino to fall as a result of the housing bubble collapse. Real estate transaction taxes were a chief component of the authority’s revenue, resulting in takings of nearly $1.4 billion in 2006 and $1.6 billion in 2007 according to the New York Times. In 2008, the MTA is said to have only collected about $995 million.

With a hole this deep, it is clear that a solution had to be agreed upon. However, amidst a collection of pointed fingers, many of the MTA board members have been unfairly vilified. The bottom line is that without monetary help from Albany (I believe ‘bailout’ is the preferred term these days), the authority needed to compose an equally severe budget to keep public transportation running.

And severe it is. Without state funding the MTA said next summer commuters will face a 23% fare hike and major service cuts could come as soon as spring.

“Clearly this is a really terrible deal for riders,” said Andrew Albert of the NYC Transit Riders Council in January. We agree.

But the TWU thinks it’s a terrible deal for local workers too, and unfairly so. The proposed service cuts would eliminate the W and Z lines, eliminate the J express service, and cut the G and M lines in half.

In response to the 2009 budget, the local chapter of the TWU released the following statement:

We strongly believe that the MTA must complete a reduction of the over 2,000 overlapping managerial positions, eliminate bureaucratic waste and streamline its organization before considering even a single service cut.

With a dramatic and historic increase in ridership, more service—not less—is needed on our subway and bus lines. Failure to maintain and reinvest in our transportation infrastructure now will result in huge costs to riders and all taxpayers down the road.

Before any fare increase, the Bloomberg administration must be required to fund its share of mass transit, and not abrogate responsibility while insisting on even more control. Now is not the time to relieve the City of the hundreds of millions in unpaid obligations it owes the MTA. It is not only bad policy, it also fuels fare increases now and in the future.

The projected service cuts will affect over 1 million New Yorkers, resulting in sparser service and overcrowding during peek hours. Further, the subway lines picked for reduced service run through some of the more impoverished sections of Brooklyn and Queens, begging the question of what factors were considered when choosing these lines? The red, blue and green lines (the 1, 2, 3; the A, C, E; and the 4, 5, 6 lines) that run through the Upper Manhattan and the Lower East Side remain untouched. The Bloomberg administration is not known for transparency, though many New Yorkers are calling for just that in response to accusations that unethical bureaucracy was involved in picking these lines.

On Wednesday, January 28th the MTA will hold a public hearing in Brooklyn to discuss the service cuts. For more information on the hearing and the TWU’s protest go to

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