Look out straphangers! An MTA axe is headed your way. On Wednesday, December 16, the Metropolitan Transit Authority voted to okay a harsh round of fare hikes and service cuts in an attempt to close a budget gap of more than $400 million.
In the Bronx, the MTA plans to eliminate several buses, the Bx4 bus and Bx34 bus included. It also plans to phase-out free student MetroCards. Under the December 16 proposal, students would see MetroCards discounts chopped in half in September 2010 and eliminated completely in September 2011. Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz called the MTA a “bottomless pit of waste” and the plan to phase-out free student MetroCards “unconscionable.” Dinowitz fears that the December 16 vote is another ploy to win bailout money from the state, which grudgingly hammered out a plan to generate $2.3 billion for the MTA in May.
The assemblyman thinks the MTA could leverage the proposed fare hikes and service cuts to institute bridge tolls. The student MetroCards plan could cost Bronx parents up to $1000 per child each year, Dinowitz said.
The Bx34, on the chopping block again, runs from Woodlawn to Fordham Road, through Dinowitz’ district. The bus is popular with Woodlawn seniors, construction workers, students and healthcare workers who commute to Montefiore Medical Center. Were it disappear, Woodlawn residents would need to ride two buses to reach the subway and would pay a double fare.
“Again the MTA has voted to cut service to people in the outer boroughs,” Dinowtiz snarled. “The MTA is disgusting.”
Woodlawn senior Catherine Brown agreed; 60 percent of St. Barnabas High School students ride the Bx34, Brown explained.
“We seniors depend on the Bx34,” she said. “It takes us from one end of Woodlawn to the other. Some seniors will be devastated, stuck at home. There are no cabs here.”
Chris Sheridan of the Woodlawn Taxpayers Association plans to launch a petition, as she did in February. To eliminate the Bx34 would be to cut Woodlawn’s throat, Fr. Richard Gorman said.
“I hope [the proposal] is only a threat,” Senator Jeff Klein said. “The Bx34 is no luxury in Woodlawn.”
Truman High School student Brandon Moulton, 17, warned the MTA not to cut the Bx4 and phase-out out student MetroCards.
“Whenever I get on the Bx4, the bus is packed,” Moulton said. “If the MTA gets rid of the free MetroCards, school attendance will drop. People already skip school.”
The Bx4 runs up Westchester Avenue. Although it parallels the 6 IRT, the bus helps seniors, disabled straphangers, mothers with strollers and students get around, Stratford Avenue resident Olga Reveron said. Not everyone is fit to climb the stairs to the elevated train. There are no elevators on the 6 IRT between Harlem and Pelham Bay Park.
Councilwoman Annabel Palma, whose district includes Westchester Avenue, blasted the MTA plan to eliminate the Bx4. Palma called the student MetroCard phase-out “indefensible.”
Castle Hill resident and Tri-State Transportation Campaign policy expert Veronica Vanterpool agreed. But Bronx residents should know that Albany took back $143 million from the MTA in early December, Vanterpool said. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign thinks the MTA could use federal stimulus funds intended for capital expenses to help plug the budget gap, she added.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or email@example.com