Buses bailed out

On Monday, May 11, the Metropolitan Transit Authority voted to raise NYC’s base subway fare from $2 to $2.25 and will spare bus routes slated for elimination, including the Bx4 and Bx34.

The MTA had threatened to raise the fare 50 cents. Instead, it will receive a $2.26 billion bailout courtesy of the state Legislature. Last week, Albany pols agreed to levy a $1.5 billion payroll tax, a taxi tariff and a vehicle registration fee hike to rescue the MTA.

The bailout will cost Joseph Rodriguez of Soundview an arm and a leg. Rodriguez collects a paycheck, owns a car. Still, Rodriguez breathed easier Monday. Soundview needs the Bx4.

“It is what it is,” Rodriguez said. “The MTA is a bully. Yeah, I drive. But the Bx4 is important.”

The Bx4 runs below the Westchester Avenue el, from the HUB to Westchester Square. Many Bx4 regulars are elderly and/or disabled. Bronxites ride the Bx4 to Lincoln Hospital. According to Castle Hill resident and Tri-State Transportation advocate Veronica Vanterpool, 62 percent of Bronx households don’t own a car.

“No Bx4 elimination – hooray,” Community Board 9 district manager Francisco Gonzalez said.

But Gonzalez is worried. A fare hike is a fare hike.

“You have to look at it from the perspective of a working class family of five,” Gonzalez said. “A quarter here, a quarter there – the mother can’t buy lunch anymore.”

According to Woodlawn retiree Catherine Mehigan, folks in her neighborhood are relieved. Nurses commute to Montefiore Medical Center on the Bx34; construction workers hop the bus to the Norwood “B/D train” station; Woodlawn teens ride the Bx34 to school, Fordham Road and back. The Bx4, Bx14, Bx20 and a shuttle bus to the floating pool at Barretto Point Park will also dodge the axe.

“No one’s going to uncork a bottle of champagne to celebrate the fare hike,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “On the other hand, the bailout leverages $1.8 million to maintain the MTA system and prevent service cuts. We did pretty good.”

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz thanked Albany for the bailout. The agency never wanted to eliminate the Bx4 and Bx34, but needed to close a budget gap, Ortiz said. Assemblyman Michael Benjamin called the bailout “ugly” but “successful.” Benjamin opposed additional tolling of the East and Harlem River bridges. Tolls will increase by about 10 percent. The Access-a-Ride fare, set for a $2.75 hike, will increase only 25 cents.

Bx4, Bx34

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