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MTA board approves new budget with deep service cuts

By Philip Newman

The MTA board today unanimously approved a budget for 2010 that includes a shutdown of two subway lines, heavy cuts in service and an end to free MetroCards for a half-million students.

The vote came after elected officials, union officials and straphangers angrily assailed the transit agency with one speaker proclaiming, “Scrooge would have been ashamed.”

Many of those in the public speakers period demanded a delay in the vote. Members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board discussed the issue for nearly two hours before voting, with nearly all of them criticizing the proposed service cuts but particularly condemning the taking away of free rides for students.

Several board members emphasized that voting today was required because the MTA is required to come up with a new budget immediately and others mentioned that public hearings and another vote are required before any of the service cuts can be carried out. Some implied they held out hope for a financial rescue.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder said the discussions at today’s meeting were the opening of what he predicted would be extensive deliberations over the new budget.

Much of the tumult from speakers prior to the vote involved the MTA’s plan to take away free MetroCards for students by 2011.

“You cannot get lower than this, taking MetroCards away from our children,” said City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn).

Council members Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) criticized the MTA’s plan for service cuts and ending free student MetroCards.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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