LIRRCC Testimony – March 2, 2010 – Proposed Service Reductions

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Testimony of the New Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council to the
Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
on Proposed Service Reductions
Sheraton LaGaurdia , Flushing, NY

March 2, 2010

Good Evening.  My name is Owen Costello.  I am a member of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council (LIRRCC), the legislatively mandated representatives of the Long Island Rail Road riders.  The LIRRCC was established in 1981 by the State Legislature to represent the LIRR riders.  Our volunteer members are recommended by the Nassau and Suffolk County Executives and the Brooklyn and Queens Borough Presidents senior elected officials of each county and borough, and appointed by the Governor of the state.

I’m here this evening to speak about the proposed reductions to service on the Port Washington line.  The LIRRCC has presented its comments general comments on the LIRR’s overall package of service cuts, but as a rider on the Port Washington line, I want to specifically address the severe blow that I my fellow riders will be dealt if these reductions are approved.

The Port Washington line is different in many ways from the rest of the LIRR.  It is the only line that does not travel through Jamaica.  Most of its stations lie within the City of New York, and City residents make up a substantial portion of its ridership, particularly in off-peak hours.  The reason for this is, unlike other areas of the City, the northeastern portion of Queens has no subway service and limited bus service.  The 7 line terminates in Flushing, and is not conveniently accessible to most people in this area.  In recognition of this situation, the PCAC successfully pushed for the institution of the CityTicket program, which allows City riders to use the commuter railroads on weekends at a reduced cost.

In a very real sense, the Port Washington provides replacement service for the subway service that we do not have; stations are closely spaced, and ridership is strong, even in off-peak hours.  Many of those recently locating in northeastern Queens chose this area in part because of the frequent train service that is available and the short ride to Penn Station.  As well as traveling to Manhattan during peak hours, they rely on off-peak service not only for leisure, but when their business commitments keep them in the City beyond the PM peak period.

Now we are told that the Port Washington Branch will lose an afternoon peak train, which will be “combined” with a train departing twenty minutes later and that off-peak service will be cut back from every 30 minutes to every hour.  We are further told that because of the off-peak cuts there may be some riders who will not have seats on these off-peak trains.   These cuts are being made to a service that returns 2/3 of its cost of operation in fares overall, which is higher than any other branch on the Rail Road.  These actions should particularly distress peak hour riders, who on average pay 150 percent of the operating cost of their trips.  As a peak rider, the MTA is making an operating profit on me, but service on the Branch is still being cut.  These are the Rail Road’s figures, not mine.

These cuts are not good for the 840 riders on the peak trains proposed to be combined, they are not good for the 3,500 daily riders affected by the proposed cut to hourly weekday off peak service, and they are not good for the 7,700 daily riders affected by the proposed cut to hourly service on the weekends .  Moreover, these cuts are not good for our community.  Transit service exists to connect the various parts of our region, but these proposals threaten to break those connections and push potential riders into private automobiles where they will contribute to the congestion that plagues our community even in the midday, in evening hours, and on weekends.

The question we should ask is what we are gaining for all this pain.  Port Washington Line off-peak service cuts save only about one half million dollars on weekdays and less than three quarters of a million dollars on weekends.  These sums are overwhelmed by $143 million in State funding cuts in the Governor’s Deficit Reduction Program and shortfalls of $229 million  and $378 million  in 2009 and 2010 tax receipts.  We need to carefully review what is being lost in the process, whether the savings generated can justify the impact on riders, and what alternatives to these actions exist.  We are asking this Board to critically examine this issue along with us.  We stand ready to work with you in an honest assessment of our options.
Testimony of the New York City Transit Riders Council to the
Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
on Proposed Service Reductions
Sheraton LaGuardia , Flushing, N.Y.

March 2, 2010

My name is Michael Sinansky and I am the Vice-Chair of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) and the Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s representative to the Transit Riders Council.  The proposed bus and subway service reductions pose a serious threat to both the safety and reliability of the system and the individual riders that depend upon their availability. As a case in point, the MTA is proposing to discontinue all service on the following Queens bus routes:
• Q 14 between Flushing and Whitestone.
• Q 42 between Jamaica and Addesleigh Park.
• Q-74 between Kew Gardens and Queens College.
• Q 75 between Jamaica and Oakland Gardens.
• Q 79 between Little Neck and Floral Park.
It is alarming to note that four (4) of these Queens bus routes slated for elimination of all service are located either in southeastern or northeastern Queens, where alternative subway service does not exist. Subway service in Queens terminates at Jamaica and Flushing. So much for alternative methods of public transportation.
Regarding the proposed cuts to essential subway service, the #7 Line riders have experienced years of overcrowding and inconvenience, as a result of ongoing construction delays, viaduct rebuilding and switching problems. Now, the MTA proposes to subject #7 Line riders to increases in the maximum loading guidelines to 125% seated load in all off peak hours. Actual crowding would probably be substantially worse at times, as the guidelines assume that all goes according to schedule.  Anyone who uses the subways in Queens knows that is often not the case.  Further, the MTA acknowledges in this proposal that this increase in #7 train passenger loading would also lead to reduced train frequencies, as well as overcrowding.

I would also like to indicate our objections to two actions that will have a severe impact on our residents.  Residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaway Peninsula share a common police precinct, the same school board district and same community board.  In recognition of these and other community ties and the fact that the Cross Bay Bridge is the only intraborough crossing in the entire City of New York that has a toll, a resident toll rebate program was instituted several years ago.  Now, the MTA proposes that these same working families spend additional hundreds of dollars per year, so that they can access vital governmental services.  This proposal is viewed by some affected residents as simply vindictive.
With regard to school transportation, the proposal to eliminate student bus and subway passes is likewise shameful. We agree that the State and City, who are rightfully responsible for these costs should bear them, but this does not justify imposing this unwarranted burden on families with school age children.    Finally, we are distressed that for all of the pain that these proposed service cuts inflict, they make such a small dent in the MTA’s budget deficit.  The total savings of subway service reductions is less than $18 million, while bus service reductions improve the MTA financial position by only $60 million.  The elimination of the Cross Bay Bridge toll rebate program will bring in only $4 million.  These sums are overwhelmed by $143 million in State funding cuts in the Governor’s Deficit Reduction Program and shortfalls of $229 million and $378 million in 2009 and 2010 tax receipts.  The MTA’s financial crisis is not the product of running too much service. These bus and subway service reductions being proposed are simply inconsistent with a city that operates 24/7.
Testimony of the New York City Transit Riders Council to the
Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Proposed Service Reductions
College of Staten Island, Staten Island, N.Y.

March 2, 2010

Good evening, my name is Tom Jost, and I am the Staten Island Borough President’s representative on the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC).  The Council, which was formed in 1981, consists of fifteen (15) Governor appointed volunteer members to represent the needs and views of the users of the New York City Transit system.

The MTA is proposing the discontinuation of five express bus lines – the x6, x9, x16, x18 and x20 as well as two local lines – the s60, the s42.  Thousands of commuters rely upon this bus service to get to work – many have no other viable options.  The bulk of Staten Island commuters travel to Manhattan.  The elimination of the W Train to Lower Manhattan and reductions to the headways on the 1 during midday and off-peak periods will further complicate and lengthen an already arduous mass transit commute for Island residents.

The MTA is also looking to phase out the student pass, an action that would have far-reaching implications to City school operations.  This is an incredibly near-sited cost cutting maneuver that will cost our children and our families in the long run.  The responsibility for student passes is a shared obligation between the City, the State and the MTA and it is one of the best examples of the complete lack of coordination and integration between the layers of government that manage this region to the detriment of its taxpaying public.  The City, the State and the MTA should be working together during this crisis.  They all need to stop the finger pointing, and stop raiding each-others budget obligations in order to fix their own problems.

According to the most recent US Census, Staten Islanders face the 2nd longest average commute in the entire nation and commute time factors greatly into people’s living and lifestyle decisions.  Mass transit is vital to the economy of Staten Island.  The difficult, expensive and often unreachable mass transit system is the single greatest impediment to our economic growth.  The MTA needs to recognize and embrace its obligation as the region’s leader in promoting mass transit alternatives to automobile usage.  The MTA should be at the forefront of transit expansion, especially to underserved areas such as Staten Island who stand to gain so tremendously from an economic standpoint from shorter and consistent mass transit commutes.  That economic gain will do much more to promote a sustainable financial plan for the MTA than the circus of service cuts and fare increases that the MTA subjects it’s riding public to on a seemingly annual basis.  The opportunity to bring a viable mass transit system to Staten Island that would promote fundamental change to the commuting habits of its populace has been available to the MTA for decades, and the MTA has consistently ignored the opportunity.

The MTA’s financial crisis is not the result of providing too much service.  These deep service cuts that will significantly impact many Staten Island mass transit users will only bring minimal relief to the yawning deficit faced by the MTA.  The total projected savings from across-the-board bus service reductions in all five boroughs totals $60 million.  The proposed State funding cuts set forth in the Governor’s Deficit Reduction Program are more than double this amount at $143 million.  The MTA is also projecting shortfalls of $229 million and $400 million in 2009 and 2010 tax receipts.  These service cuts are not going to close that gap.  I am not minimizing the importance of making the system as efficient as possible, but these proposed service cuts are largely a matter of cutting muscle and bone rather than fat.   There is a purpose and demand for each of the services that is being eliminated.  The NYCTRC strongly urges the MTA to reconsider these steep service cuts as the severity of the reductions is inconsistent with the minimal savings that would be realized.

The financial impact of these cuts has been documented; what we now need to do is examin Island that would promote fundamental change to the commuting habits of its populace has been available to the MTA for decades, and the MTA has consistently ignored the opportunity.

The MTA’s financial crisis is not the result of providing too much service.  These deep service cuts that will significantly impact many Staten Island mass transit users will only bring minimal relief to the yawning deficit faced by the MTA.  The total projected savings from across-the-board bus service reductions in all five boroughs totals $60 million.  The proposed State funding cuts set forth in the Governor’s Deficit Reduction Program are more than double this amount at $143 million.  The MTA is also projecting shortfalls of $229 million and $400 million in 2009 and 2010 tax receipts.  These service cuts are not going to close that gap.  I am not minimizing the i

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