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Bx4, Bx34 saved but Bx18 in danger

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Call it the Metropolitan Transit Authority switcharoo. The Bx4 and Bx34 buses dodged an axe on Friday, January 22 but the MTA announced plans to kick Bx18 bus straphangers to the curb.

The Bx18, which runs from the Grand Concourse at E. 170th Street to the Harlem River via Macombs Road and W. Tremont Avenue, ferries residents of Sedgwick and Undercliff avenues up the hill to Morris Heights.

On January 22, the MTA released a revised list of service cuts meant to address its $400 million budget gap. The MTA based its original list, released in December 2009, on cuts proposed in 2008. New MTA chairman and CEO Jay Walder has spared several Bronx buses. Only the Bx18 is slated for total elimination.

The Bx4, which runs up Westchester Avenue and was slated for total elimination in December, has been restored. The Bx34, which runs from Woodlawn to Fordham Road and was also slated for total elimination, is set to lose overnight and weekend service.

Also on January 22, the MTA announced that it would hold eight public hearings on the proposed cuts. The Bronx hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 3 at the Paradise Theater on the Grand Concourse at E. 187th Street.

The MTA expects its Bronx bus changes to save $9 million annually. Walder admitted that the cuts would sting but insisted that the MTA has done its best to minimize the pain.

“Oh yeah?” Riverpark Towers resident and Community Board 5 member Leon Johnson said. “The Bx18 is important. It looks like only a couple blocks but these are high-rises down here.”

Some 1,780 weekday straphangers and 1,130 weekend straphangers would need to walk, ride Metro-North or use a combination of buses to the north, south and east if the Bx18 were eliminated, an MTA report said.

The change would increase the typical Bx18 straphanger’s commute by 20 minutes and save the MTA $1.2 million. But it would strand many seniors unable to trudge up and down Sedgwick and Undercliff, Johnson explained.

The Bx34 runs from Woodlawn to Fordham Road and is popular with Woodlawn seniors, construction workers, students and healthcare workers who commute to Montefiore Medical Center.

Under the proposal, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and on weekends, Woodlawn residents would need the Bx31 and Bx16 to reach the subway and would pay a double fare. The MTA expects to save $200,000 annually thanks to the Bx34 change.

“We fought hard to save the Bx34 in 2009 and were successful,” Northwest Bronx Assemblyman Jeff Dinowtiz said. “We need to fight hard again.”

Dinowitz, who has described the MTA as a “bottomless pit of waste,” fears that the proposed cuts are a ploy to win more bailout money from the state legislature, which hammered out a plan to generate $2.3 billion for the MTA in 2009.

The Bx4, which runs up Westchester Avenue beneath the 6 IRT, escaped January 22 intact. But the MTA plans to eliminate off-peak and Saturday service for the Bx20 in Riverdale and weekend service for the Bx33 in Port Morris and Mott Haven. The summer shuttle bus to the Barretto Point Park Pool in Hunts Point is also set to be axed.

The MTA wants to restructure the Bx26, Bx28 and Bx30 bus routes in Co-op City and decrease service on White Plains Road north of Gun Hill Road.

East Bronx Councilman James Vacca, appointed to chair the City Council’s transportation committee on Thursday, January 21, thinks the MTA needs to do better. Vacca has hammered out a $141 million alternate rescue plan for the MTA. He and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have asked Walder to use federal stimulus funds and limit capital expenses to close the budget gap.

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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