Getting around New York City just got that much more expensive and difficult.
To plug its $1.2 billion 2009 budget deficit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted Wednesday 12 to 1 to approve fare hikes, deep service cuts and layoffs.
The vote came after the state Legislature failed to deliver a bailout plan, rejecting a recommendation from the state-appointed Ravitch Commission to toll the 13 free East and Harlem River bridges.
Passing the “doomsday budget,” as MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander dubbed it, was something the MTA hoped to avoid. Albany’s failure forced the agency to approve it, according to agency officials.
During the Wednesday meeting, the MTA voted to raise the base fare from $2 to $2.50, the price of a monthly MetroCard from $81 to $103 and a weekly unlimited MetroCard by $6 to $31. The increases will go into effect May 31.
Fares on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains will jump by 23 percent starting June 1, and tolls on the MTA’s bridges and tunnels will go up from $4.16 to $5.26 beginning July 11.
Service cuts include the elimination of 35 bus routes and elimination of two subway lines. Starting in June, late-night service on the N line will be cut, and the G will terminate at Court Square at all times. The W and M lines will be eliminated, as will all service on the Q26, 56, 74, 75, 84, QM22, QM23 and X32.
There will be no more weekend service on the Q14, 31, 76 and 79 buses and no overnight service on the Q30. There will also be a reduction of operating hours on the Q42, 48 and 79, while a portion of the Q24 route will be eliminated.
The board voted to cut about 3,000 subway and bus positions, as well as make cuts to the transit workforce, laying off more than 1,000 employees.
Members of the Empire State Transportation Alliance and the Keep New York Moving Campaign released a statement following the vote calling on Gov. David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith (D-St. Albans) “to continue working on a plan to reverse the MTA board actions and put into place a long-term financing plan.”
Felice Farber, director of external affairs for the General Contractors Association of New York, said, “This is a sad day for New Yorkers. … The doomsday budget stands to turn the Big Apple into a shriveled prune.”
City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the council’s Transportation Committee, released a statement Wednesday as well, saying, “It’s too bad the MTA chose theatrics and fear mongering over diligence and reason with its vote today. March 25 was an arbitrary date put forth nonchalantly by the MTA.”
He continued, “The bottom line is that today’s MTA action was rash and unnecessary, and the MTA must work with our Albany leaders to craft the appropriate bail-out package.”
While the MTA will move ahead with its approved plan, some board members expressed hope a rider rescue plan will ultimately be approved to help scale back hikes and service cuts. State lawmakers, they said, can still take action.
Paterson, Silver and a number of transportation advocates supported the Ravitch Commission recommendations, which would have raised fares by 8 percent and prevented the service cuts. Among the Ravitch proposals were a corporate payroll tax of .33 percent on businesses within the 12 regions services by the MTA and the East and Harlem River bridge tolls.
It appears a number of lawmakers in both the Assembly and Senate opposed the toll idea and blocked the rescue plan, which would have generated about $2.1 billion annually for the MTA.