Residents rail against transit cuts

MTA told plan could devastate families
By joe hirsch
[email protected]

Bronx bus riders could soon be looking for other means of getting around when the MTA implements service cuts this summer.

The transit agency announced on March 24 that it will slash service across the city beginning on June 27, in order to help close the agency’s nearly $800 million operating deficit. The MTA blames state cuts and loss of revenue for the shortfall.

The current round of cuts will save the agency $93 million per year, the MTA reported, but warned there are more reductions to come.

In Mott Haven, Port Morris and Melrose, the Bx32, 33, 41 and 55 bus lines will all suffer.
Bx32 weekday service will start later.
Bx33 weekday service will end earlier, while weekend service will start later and end earlier.
Bx55 weekday evening and weekend limited-stop service will be discontinued. Passenger will have to use Bx15 local service instead.

In Hunts Point, the Bx6 shuttle, which has run between the Hunts Point Avenue 6-train subway stop and Barretto Point Park and its floating pool during summers since 2008, will be eliminated.

Approximately 120 weekday customers and 340 weekend customers will either have to take a 10-minute walk from the last stop of the bus or find another way to get to the park.

But community advocates who fought to bring the shuttle to Hunts Point argued at the time that without it, residents and visitors would be less likely to use the park and pool. They pointed out that the walk between the end of the Bx6 line and the park winds through a forbidding stretch of desolate, industrial property where trucks careen past, discouraging would-be visitors.

MTA officials held several public forums across the city in late February and early March, to allow the public to weigh in on the proposals. On March 3, a panel of MTA officials and board members sat on stage at the historic Paradise Theater on the Grand Concourse and faced withering criticism from elected officials and members of the public.

Amanda Malave from the Hunts Point after-school program, ACTION, was one of dozens of speakers who approached the microphone at the forum to decry the proposed cuts as inhumane and short-sighted.

“With the support of our community and local elected officials, we fought so hard to get this shuttle bus implemented,” Malave told the MTA officials of the Bx6 shuttle. “We are offended that our hard work is being overlooked, and that Hunts Point residents will once again have no real access to one of the only open spaces and waterfront access points in our community.”

“With the proposed service cuts the Hunts Point community will be back at square one, once again just another overburdened and under-served, yet taxpaying, minority community,” Malave told the agitated crowd.

But the public reaction was loudest in its criticism for the agency’s proposed elimination of free MetroCards for students and slashed Access-A-Ride service for the disabled. The MTA has not yet said whether it will phase out the student MetroCard.

If it does, many argued at the hearings, parents will be forced to choose their children’s school based not on educational merit, but on whether the school is within walking distance.

“I’m a senior in high school, but I have many younger family members that depend on student MetroCards to go to school and after-school programs,” Malave said. “Student MetroCards are needed for programs like ACTION to survive, since we all use the cards to get to and from these programs.”

“You’re picking on the elderly, disabled and students,” said Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, calling the MTA’s proposals a “scare tactic” to force the state to increase its funding for the Transit Authority.

Dinowitz said it was “immoral” for the MTA to force families to come up with fares for their children to get to and from school, and told the officials, “I’m sure some of you make more than the governor.”

Numerous politicians and their spokesmen accused the MTA of wastefulness. A spokesman for Gov. David Paterson urged the officials to “go back to the drawing board and start again.”

“The extent of our deficit requires that most of the cuts move ahead, but we listened to our customers and made changes where we could,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder in announcing the cutbacks. “We were able to take a number of cuts off the table, but unfortunately, many of the cuts moving ahead will be painful.”

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