At the December Board of Directors’ meeting, MTA approved a budget that cut service on numerous lines and raised fares 23 percent. The PCAC has responded with great concern: The fare increase is horrible news for the riders of NYC Transit; and, paratransit users would have it even worse, as their fares are proposed to be set at 200 percent of the cash transit fare. This would double these riders’ costs even if there were no general fare increase, but with a the level of fare increases contemplated in this proposed budget, paratransit users would be paying about two and one-half times their present fare.
The closing of part-time station booths and elimination of Station Customer Assistants (SCAs) also raises serious concerns for many riders. Although the stated justification for eliminating the SCA program is the low level of customer contact that these employees have, PCAC submits that they provide an important presence in the subway system and that if they are not effective, the answer lies in improved management of the program, rather than its elimination. The closing of some station booths likewise eliminates an important human presence in the system.
Finally, the most alarming element of the proposed 2009 budget, however, is its proposed service reductions. The great strength of the NYC Transit system is that it provides options for riders having a variety of needs, resources, and abilities, and these proposed service cuts diminish our transit system. Cutting service is a giant step backward in MTA’s quest to provide world-class public transportation. A webcast of the December 17th MTA Board meeting can be found at http://www.mta.info/mta/webcasts/archive.htm.
The release of the Ravitch Report has provided some options to close the $1.2 billion MTA budget gap, but some of the key proposals are controversial, e.g. tolling of the East River and Harlem bridges. PCAC urges riders to express their opinions to MTA management, Governor Paterson, and the New York State legislature. See our related story, Guide to the Ravitch Commission Report.