Subway Solutions from the Council
December 15th, 2009
The authority’s board is scheduled to meet tomorrow to vote on a new budget that will eliminate two subway lines and 21 bus routes. It also would eliminate student discounts and trigger service reductions across the system.
In response, council members gathered this morning to urge the authority use $140 million in capital funds to temporarily close the authority’s operating budget gap. They also urged the authority to get Congressional approval to use $90 million in unspent stimulus funding to go towards the gap.
The full release is after the jump.
CITY HALL ― Council Member James Vacca (D-Bronx) and Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today joined leading transportation advocates and City Council colleagues on the steps of City Hall to urge the MTA Board to reject the latest round of “doomsday” service cuts when it meets tomorrow, and to instead reallocate $140 million of capital funds to temporarily close an unexpected gap in its operating budget.
The additional funds would come from two sources: More than $90 million in unspent federal stimulus aid that may be allocated toward operating expenses through a congressionally sanctioned process known as “flex,” and roughly $50 million in MTA operating funds that are currently being used to supplement the capital budget. The combined funding boost would be more than enough to offset the $129 million the MTA expects to save through cuts to subway and bus service citywide.
The MTA Board’s scheduled vote on next year’s budget is Wednesday, less than a week before they released this package of cuts. Council Members and advocates demanded that this not be the final action taken by the MTA and that MTA pledge to hold hearings before enacting any changes.
“If bus and subway services are cut the way the MTA is proposing, we will be creating mass transit deserts throughout New York City, stranding hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” said Council Member Vacca, in whose District the MTA is proposing to eliminate one bus line and reduce service on another. “Once again, we’ll have citizens paying more and getting less. The city, state, and MTA have got to come together and reexamine the agency’s budget so that these cuts never become a reality.”
“We normally would not favor using capital funding towards operating expenses, however under these circumstances, this is the only appropriate action to take,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The MTA’s decision not to hold a single public hearing for straphangers to weigh in on proposed service cuts or the elimination of student metro cards is a slap in the face to millions of hardworking families. Before these drastic changes are made, the MTA must pledge to give the public a chance to voice their concerns before enacting these extreme changes.”
The latest MTA “doomsday” budget, unveiled by the MTA Finance Committee yesterday, calls for the elimination of two subway lines (W and Z) and 21 bus routes, the partial elimination of the G line and dozens of additional bus routes, and service reductions system-wide. It would also eliminate student MetroCard discounts over two years and prompt up to 700 layoffs.
“Riders have every right to be mad as hell,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “It’s true that the financial mess is not of the MTA’s making. But the Straphangers Campaign believes the MTA has the resources to prevent the service cuts. We urge the agency to use available federal stimulus funds and capital funds now coming out of the operating budget.”
Also speaking at today’s news conference were Norman Seabrook, member of the MTA Board; Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign; and numerous elected officials and representatives.By Courtney Gross on December 15, 2009, 1:54 pm
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