In an emotional decision sure to affect the commutes of people throughout the region, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted 11-2 Wednesday to approve $93 million in service cuts.
But all those moves, set to be phased in this summer, only begin to address the $800-million shortfall the agency expects this year. MTA chairman Jay Walder said the agency still needs to grapple with another $400-million gap in order to balance its budget.
The cash-strapped agency's budget was thrown into further turmoil by the decline in tax revenues and a $143-million reduction in state funding.
"The service cuts that were put in place today will inevitably involve pain for our customers," Walder said. ". . . I wish we could take everything off the table. The reality is the financial situation doesn't allow it."
He said the agency will examine ways to continue reducing administration, renegotiate with major suppliers and drive down overtime. They also have begun meeting with union leaders to look at ways to trim the budget.
Yesterday's vote came after a tense meeting in Manhattan during which the public urged board members to reconsider the service cuts. Each board member spent a few minutes talking about the painful decision.
"This is really a very dark day for metropolitan users," board member Andrew Albert said. "These cuts are as if you went into a into a small town and told a quarter of the population that we are taking your cars away. This transit system is the jewel that keeps New York somewhat, not totally, but somewhat recession-proof."
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn urged board members to use stimulus funds of up to $100 million to plug some of the expected $800-million budget gap.
"These are the worst cuts to the transit system probably in the system's history," Quinn said. ". . . Part of the reason we got this money was to prevent cuts. Just because the MTA didn't think about this option doesn't mean they shouldn't use it."
And a subway station agent who said she is likely to lose her job, Sabrina Greenwood, recounted an incident in January when a child ran under the turnstile and onto the train as his mother was buying a MetroCard. Greenwood said she alerted train authorities and the child was found one stop away, at 125th Street, and returned to his mother.
That would not have happened if an agent were not on duty, Greenwood said.
"They say all I do is sell MetroCards," she said. "I do more than sell MetroCards everyday. I save lives."
Approved MTA cuts for Long Island
Babylon branch: Fewer trains during morning and evening rush hours
Port Washington branch: Fewer P.M. peak trains and less frequent trains during off-peak and weekend times
Long Beach branch: One fewer peak A.M. train and one fewer peak P.M. train
West Hempstead branch: About 17 fewer weekend trains
Atlantic branch: No night service to Brooklyn
Hempstead branch: Reduced number of train cars
Belmont Park Service: Discontinue all Belmont Park Special trains (Wed-Sun) except on day of Belmont Stakes
Oyster Bay branch: One fewer round-trip train on weekends
Port Jefferson branch: One fewer PM peak diesel train
Montauk branch: One fewer train from Hunterspoint
Discontinued bus lines:
N3, N17, N28, N53, N65, N66, N67, N87, N93, N94, N95
Buses with service modifications:
N1, N2, N14, N23, N25, N26, N88
For more details, see the MTA website at http://www.mta.info/newsCQ'd/stories/