Today’s news:

Parents ask the MTA to save student Metrocard

The finances of New York City and the state are between a rock and a hard place, and students are hoping that they do not have to bear the brunt of massive budget cuts that could end reduced and free student transit fares to and from school, which have existed since 1948.

The MTA has said that in order to plug a massive hole in its budget, the cards may have to be phased out over the next two years, potentially costing young families thousands of dollars.

The MTA has proposed eliminating student MetroCards, which provide free- or half-fare travel on city subways and buses for 585,000 students each weekday. The agency says the move is necessary because it spends $214 million annually subsidizing student MetroCards, while the city pays $45 million and the state contributes only $25 million.

The Straphangers Campaign and Councilman Jimmy Vacca urged parents attending parent-teacher conferences at Lehman High School on Thursday, March 18, to get involved and call on the MTA and Governor Paterson to keep student MetroCards in place.

“If student MetroCards are eliminated, parents will face thousands of dollars of new expenses that they can ill afford,” said Vacca, who chairs the Transportation Committee. “The MTA has delayed their vote and therefore we need to realize that between the service cuts, student MetroCards, Access-A-Ride cuts, there would be very few people that are not affected. We have had a good reaction here today, and I think that parents and studentsunderstand and are aware of what is going on.”

The MTA board will vote on service-reduction plans on March 24. Among bus lines in the borough, service on the Bx14, Bx 34, Barretto Park Pool Shuttle, Bx17 and Bx32 receives either a partial or full cut in the 2010 MTA Service Reduction Plan.

The MTA stated that the plan to eliminate free and half-priced MetroCards is very much still on the table, but will not be voted on when the service reductions are considered at the March 24 board hearing.

“I can confirm that there is not going to be a vote on student MetroCards at our general board hearing on March 24,” said Aaron Donovan, MTA spokesman. The chairman noted that it is his belief that the program should be fully funded by the city and state. “If they cut half-priced MetroCards,” said Lehman student Leandra Peterson. “I would have to cut my spending on important, not frivolous, things.”

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