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MTA BUDGET MESS
Board approves doomsday service cuts

Queens mass transit riders – and even some drivers – may be getting some coal in their stocking this Christmas, courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

On Wednesday, December 16, The MTA Board voted to approve a 2010 budget, which is going to be full of service reductions – the worst of which will be the elimination of the W and Z subway lines and charging students for MetroCards.

Additional cuts include the removal of the Rockaway/Broad Channel residents’ rebate program, which allows free passage on the Cross Bay Bridge for local residents, and dozens of local bus lines would see reduced or eliminated service during overnights and on weekends.

The MTA says $383 billion in last-minute, cost-cutting measures comes primarily as a result of $143 million in state funding cuts, $100 million in lower than expected payroll taxes and $91 million in failing to reach arbitration with the Transit Workers Union.

“To present a balanced budget despite losing hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding over the past two weeks requires measures that are painful to the MTA, our employees and our customers,” said MTA chief financial officer Gary J. Dellaverson.

If the MTA passes the budget, the proposed elimination and service reductions on bus and subway lines would go into effect in July of 2010.

One part of the plan that is receiving significant scrutiny from elected officials and members of the public includes charging students for half-price MetroCards in 2010 and full-fare cards in 2011 – compared to the free cards they receive now.

“I would urge them in fairness to take another look at their plan and see if there’s another way they can work it out,” Governor David A. Paterson said on Tuesday, December 15. “I just think the last thing they want to do is to charge the children for the MetroCards to go to school.”

Others in western Queens are concerned about the elimination of the W train.

“The W train serves a neighborhood which is increasing ridership almost daily, while using an antiquated elevated train line as its one route in and out,” said City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. “We need more trains and better service, not the complete elimination of a line.”

While most of the riders who would be affected by the shutdown of the W train are Astoria residents, other commuters who live in other Queens neighborhoods would also be impacted.

“Any elimination is bad,” said Henry Riedner, who transfers from the No. 7 to the W train at Queens Plaza during his weekly trip to Soho for his computer lessons. Anything can be done better, but they do all right. They could certainly be doing better; it’s not a perfect situation.”

Maria A. Thomson, Executive Director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District (BID), said the businesses in her area would be particularly affected by the elimination of the Q56 bus, which runs along Jamaica Avenue, and Z line.

“We need that [bus] for stores along the avenue,” Thomson said. “How are people going to get there to shop?”

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