NEW YORK—The MTA board approved a grim budget for 2010 on Wednesday with a vote of 12-0. A major focus was on the $383 million gap which the MTA blames on a series of developments including a $143 million state budget cut.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the MTA Jay H. Walder assured that the move is the start of a process, not a final decision.
The budget outlines a series of cuts including cutting nonunion worker’s payroll by 10 percent through furloughs and other kinds of administrative savings measures. In addition, recommended reductions from 2008 that were never implemented will be instated, including the closing of the W and Z subway lines; several bus lines will also be discontinued. An MTA press statement also mentions unspecified ways to reduce paratransit costs.
In addition, free student metro cards will be eliminated—news that has sparked outrage among many.
Half of the student discount will be eliminated as of September 2010 and fully terminated by September 2011.
Board member Jeffrey A. Kay in part blames Albany for coming up short by $229 million dollars. “It was Albany that cut the school kids funds. I believe they will realize it and they will say ‘we should put that back,’” said Kay.
Chairman Walder said he was going to take the place apart. “That’s what we’re all looking for,” said Kay. “We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder to take this place apart and find the funds.”
According to an MTA press statement, prior to 1994, it was New York City and New York state who paid for the cost of the student fares. However after an agreement in 1995, when the MTA started to pay for a third of the cost, the MTA has contributed more funds over time while the state has reduced its support.
“We need to focus on fundamentally changing the way we run the operation,” said Walder. “If we’re going to have credibility in an environment of doing this painful thing … I’m not sure we can do that right now.”
Walder also said that we must accept that there will be layoffs of unproductive jobs. The administration alone has 5,000 employees, which he says are far too many.
Board member Andrew Albert says that subway ridership is continuing to rise and that they can’t always cut their way out of the crisis. “We’re not cutting fat, we’re cutting bone. This is cutting off entire neighborhoods. These are not luxuries,” said Albert.
“I am sickened,” said MTA board member Allen P. Cappelli, while commenting on the cuts to be implemented. “These bus cuts will prevent people from getting to work; the elderly to the doctor, children to school … it’s sickening what we have to deal with.”
Many concerned citizens and public officials voiced their concerns prior to the vote. This Tuesday, protests over the student metrocards were held where worried parents expressed their fears. A currently unemployed single mother of two, Caprice Corbett said she will have to pay $50 a week to get her children to school. “That’s a big chunk of unemployment,” said Corbett.
Board member Ira Greenberg says that the government should give a choice, either students pay for their fares or have the Department of Education come up with the funds.
Further public hearings will be held starting in 2010.