NYCTRC Testimony – March 3, 2010 – Proposed Service Cuts

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Testimony of the New York City Transit Riders Council to the
Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
On Proposed Service Reductions
The Paradise Theater, Bronx, NY

March 3, 2010
My name is Edith Prentiss and I am a member of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC).  The Council was created in 1981 to represent the users of the New York City Transit system and consists of fifteen volunteer members appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Mayor, the Public Advocate and the five Borough Presidents.

The proposed service cuts that you have presented take a heavy toll on the Bronx, as well as the system as a whole.  The proposed restructuring of bus routes results in inferior service for a number of riders, including decreased frequency of service, increased waiting and running time or distance to a bus stop, and additional transfers.  The discontinuation of service on four routes and the Barretto Point Pool shuttle would increase travel time substantially for some riders and would effectively strand some riders who cannot walk long distances to remaining service.  Eliminating overnight service and reducing spans of service will mean that there will simply be no bus available for a number of riders.

Subway service cuts will likewise negatively impact this Borough.  The changes in weekend train frequencies and service levels would impact the 1 and D trains in midday hours and evenings on weekdays and throughout the day on weekends.  This means that passengers will wait longer.  If service runs as planned, the additional wait would not be long, but as we who ride the subways on the weekends know well, service doesn’t always run according to plan.

We are also very concerned about changes to Access-A-Ride and their potential to strand significant numbers of riders.   NYC Transit proposes three major initiatives in this area:  replacing door to door service with feeder service to fixed route transit, determining eligibility for service for some customers on a trip by trip basis, and relying more heavily on vouchers that allow clients to use taxicabs and car services.  At the very least, these changes will increase the uncertainty and insecurity associated with Access-A-Ride service, which is already greater than it should be, and we find it hard to see how at least some riders subject to these new initiatives would not fall through the cracks and in fact become stranded as wheelchair users often are already given Access A Ride’s increasing utilization of inaccessible vehicles. The voucher program will only serve the 80% of AAR riders who do not require an accessible vehicle as only a small portion of taxicabs and car service vehicles are accessible.

The MTA also proposes to elimination free student transportation.  We agree that the MTA should not bear the cost of pupil transportation, but in a State where students routinely receive free school transportation, neither should our students and their families.  New York City’s families have been encouraged to find the best schools for their children, with the understanding that necessary transportation would be available without charge.  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.

I want to emphasize that many of the riders who will be affected by these cuts are persons who have no other choices other than using transit to travel to school, to work, to medical appointments, and to visit family members.  While NYC Transit President Tom Prendergast has stated that his staff has given special consideration to these persons, and we take him at his word, these individuals still bear a special burden.

Finally, we are distressed that for all of the pain that these proposed cuts inflict, they make such a small dent in the MTA’s budget deficit.  The total value of subway service reductions is less than $18 million, while bus service reductions improve the MTA financial position by only $60 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 and these service cuts do little to resolve it.  I do not wish to minimize the importance of making the system more efficient, but the service changes that have been proposed are largely a matter of cutting muscle and bone rather than fat.

Testimony of the New York City Transit Riders Council to the
Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
On Proposed Reductions
The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

March 3, 2010

My name is Shirley Genn and I am a member of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC).  The Council was created in 1981 to represent the users of the New York City Transit system and consists of fifteen volunteer members appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Mayor, the Public Advocate and the five Borough Presidents.

Brooklyn will bear a heavy burden under these proposals.  Proposed subway cuts target mainly B division lines, which form the core of Brooklyn’s subway system.  We would lose M train service, leading to additional crowding on alternative subway lines serving South Brooklyn, and also face reduced frequency of weekend service on the A, D, F, G, N, Q, and R lines.  Trains would also be more crowded, as the maximum average occupancy per car in off-peak hours is proposed to be revised from an equal number of passengers and seats to 25 percent more passengers than seats.  This would affect the A and F lines serving Brooklyn.

I use the A, D, F, N, Q, and R lines with some frequency in the early morning and evening peak hours as well as in the afternoons, they are crowded not only during the peaks but from 10 to noon on weekdays, from 11 to 12:30 on weekends and from 8 p.m. to midnight on weekends.  The F line runs only locally in Brooklyn.  Delays and interrupted service create uneven service patterns and long delays, particularly when the F is held up in Queens and Manhattan.  The F travels along McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn, where at night it is unsafe for individuals to enter and leave the unstaffed Avenue M entrance to the Avenue N Station.  Mc Donald is an industrial avenue, bordered on one side by a cemetery that runs several blocks, and there is no agent on duty at Avenue M.  Upon entering here, I have found people inside the station eating or resting on the floor.

MetroCards often cannot be successfully swiped at this entrance because with no staff the turnstile card readers are not kept clean.  People who succeed in getting an agent on the station intercom find that they are required to walk to the staffed entrance at the other end of the station.  The Avenue N station is not alone; At the next station south this past Monday I found people at the Kings Highway end unable to successfully swipe their MetroCards to get to work.  The recommendations you suggest offer no safe or practical alternative.  The attitude seems to be customer service be damned from the leadership’s point of view, given the priorities that they have chosen to ignore.

The bus service cuts proposed for Brooklyn are numerous.  Under the MTA proposal, bus service in Brownstone Brooklyn and Bay Ridge would be restructured and a number of routes would have their lesser used portions eliminated.  This would include the eastern end of the B4, which is concerning because it is a major route serving Coney Island Hospital, but would result in riders having longer walks to a bus, longer travel times, and additional transfers.  While some travel on buses would be possible, in practical terms it would be an ordeal.  The proposal also includes the total elimination of three local bus routes and the discontinuation of weekend service on two others.  Still other routes would operate over fewer hours of the day. This of particular concern in regards to routes where overnight service is being discontinued; riders of these routes frequently have no other choices of transportation and would become stranded until service resumes, and while their numbers are relatively small, the impact of these cuts would be great.

Brooklyn depends heavily on its bus network to not only in those areas beyond the reach of the subway system, but also to provide mobility for individuals who find it difficult or impossible to use the Borough’s subway stations, which are largely inaccessible to those with disabilities and include many unstaffed entrances that are intimidating and difficult to navigate for many riders.  The elimination of all X29 and weekend X27 and X28 service is being justified by the existence of subway service in nearby corridors, as is the elimination of B39 and the part of the Q24 route east of Broadway Junction; the parallel subway service is an option only if the rider is able to make the climb in and out of the station, and for many riders, this is not the case.

In addition, persons with disabilities may find their use of Access-A-Ride paratransit services to be substantially curtailed.  NYC Transit proposes three major initiatives in this area:  replacing door to door service with feeder service to fixed route transit, determining eligibility for service for some customers on a trip by trip basis, and relying more heavily on vouchers that allow clients to use taxicabs and car services.  At the very least, these changes will increase the uncertainty and insecurity associated with Access-A-Ride service, which is already greater than it should be, and we find it hard to see how at least some riders subject to these new initiatives would not fall through the cracks and in fact become stranded.

We recognize that paratransit costs are growing rapidly, but fear that a what seems to be a new emphasis on providing the bare minimum of service required for persons with disabilities will result in anxiety, confusion, and ultimately to the most vulnerable of our citizens being stranded.  We also are concerned that students will be left without means of transportation.  We agree that paying for student transportation should not be the responsibility of the MTA, but neither should it fall to students and their families.  The State and City are properly responsible for these costs, but unilaterally eliminating free school passes is not the proper means of convincing them to assume this burden.

Finally, we are distressed that for all of the pain that these proposed cuts inflict, they make such a small dent in the MTA’s budget deficit.  The total value of subway service reductions is less than $18 million, while bus service reductions improve the MTA financial position by only $60 million. Access-A-Ride service cuts would save just over $16 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.  If the service being provided were excessive, these cuts would be easy to bear, but these reductions are not a matter of cutting the fat, they are getting into muscle and bone.  I do not wish to minimize the importance of making the system more efficient, but the MTA’s financial crisis is not the product of providing too much service.  There is a purpose and demand for each of the services that is being eliminated, and we need to look carefully at what is being gained and what is being lost.

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