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MTA service improvements could be on the way, board members say
Four years since the MTA's infamous "doomsday" cuts, riders might not realize they are actually in a period of improved service -- and more could be on the way.
With more than $25 million pumped into train and bus service for upgrades since the 2010 cuts, there are members of the MTA board who want another round of improvements for the third year in a row.
These board members are optimistic that there will be money available next month when the MTA goes over its finances.
Proposals possibly up for discussion include an extension of the J line all the way to Broad Street on the weekends, M104 service to midtown east and a full restoration of the B37 to Court Street in downtown Brooklyn, according to MTA board member Andrew Albert, who represents the NYC Transit Riders Council.
The package would be in the area of $25 million, similar to the size of a proposal made earlier in the year that was tabled.
"I remain convinced we will be able to do something. I think the riders expect us to do something," said Allen Cappelli, a board member who had proposed the service improvement package. "They lived up to their end of the bargain with biannual [fare] increases and they would like to see something out of this as well."
With the size of the MTA's financial plan and the cost of new union contracts, "we looked to ourselves and we say it's a rounding error. It's like chump change compared to what we're spending on all these other areas," Albert said. "And of course service is very important."
Top MTA officials have been discussing these improvements, the Daily News reported last month. An MTA spokesman would not confirm the report.
The MTA in 2010 approved reviled service cuts saving about $90 million a year to help close a nearly $800 million budget gap. Subway riders saw the W and V lines axed, the Queens leg of the G line cut short at Court Square and more cramped rides and longer wait times for trains. There were 110 local and express bus routes in the city that had service reduced or entirely cut.
But the MTA has changed course since then. Dozens of bus lines had service restored or added; the G line was permanently brought to Church Avenue, with more trains running this year; and the M line was brought into Manhattan on the weekends. Additionally, the MTA made adjustments to schedules that led to more trains on eight lines, including the chronically crowded L and No. 4 and 5 trains.
Meanwhile, brand new bus service was established in Brooklyn's tech triangle, the far west side of Manhattan, South Bronx in the western Hunts Point area, the Williamsburg waterfront, and in East Brooklyn.
The goals for the MTA were to bring back or add weekend service, improving connections with other transit lines and targeting new areas that saw population grow, according to spokesman Kevin Ortiz. Passengers affected by the 2010 cuts who want to see them fully reversed, however, are out of luck.
"What we wanted to avoid was restoring lines where there was low ridership," Ortiz said. "We wanted to really use our resources more carefully and more prudently to provide more service to more people."
Councilman James Vacca of the Bronx said the MTA is in a better financial condition to bring service back, particularly in isolated neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the cuts.
"So many of the cuts were just really regressive," Vacca said. "They were hitting straphangers where it hurt."