MTA OKs $12B budget, keeps service cuts

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Philip Newman

The MTA has approved a $12.7 billion 2012 budget at an impassioned meeting where several board members vainly tried to restore some of the service cuts imposed last year because of the agency’s financial straits.

The new budget includes neither fare hikes nor service reductions.

Board member Allen Cappelli, of Staten Island, offered an amendment at the year-end session Dec. 21 that would have set aside $20 million to bring back some of service cuts. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority last year abolished two subway lines, the V and W, serving Queens and trimmed service on more than 30 bus routes.

The board voted 6-4 against the amendment.

“Our transit system is not just Manhattan,” Cappelli said. “We have people out there who are desperate for service. I am bothered by the cavalier attitude on the part of some members of this board.”

Board member Mitchell Pally, of Suffolk County, L.I., said, “I have people on Long Island who have absolutely no service anymore — none — at certain parts of the day.” He was referring to fewer trains on the Long Island Rail Road.

Pally said it would be unfair to straphangers, who he said had endured several fare increases and service cuts.

“This would give them back something in return,” he said.

Several board members used “risky” and “dangerous” to describe the restoration idea.

Acting MTA Chairman Andrew Saul, of Westchester County, said it might be “suicidal.”

“We’re in a very uncertain time,” Saul said. “Restoring cuts now is not appropriate.”

Joseph Lhota, who takes over next month as MTA chairman, said the agency needs every penny in its treasury so dire is its financial situation.

The MTA will lose $320 million from the 12-county payroll tax, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised the state will pay the MTA “every penny” lost from the reduction of the payroll tax.

MTA officials used the word “fragile” in describing the 2012 budget and said potential risks included the possibility of a worsening of the economy, reductions in state subsidies as well as dedicated taxes and what the MTA sees as unsuccessful labor settlements.

The contract between the MTA and thousands of subway and bus workers expires Jan. 15.

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