MTA considering plans to restore some service cuts in 2010
The MTA is considering a plan to restore some of the "doomsday cuts" made in 2010.
After months of prodding by board members, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota is expected to propose a list of recommended service additions to the board next month, when the agency unveils its preliminary budget for 2013, which includes a 7.5% fare increase.
"We are evaluating all of our options and alternatives. I'm not sure we have the financial stability to bring back all of our services that were cut in 2010, but we are evaluating it right now," Lhota said at Wednesday board meeting.
"Not a day goes by when I don't think about restoration of services and further investments in the system," Lhota said, adding, "We will discuss this both at the committee meetings and then at the board meeting in July."
Lhota's comments came after several officials and community leaders pleaded with the board Wednesday to boost bus service in Brooklyn.
MTA board member Mitch Pally, one of two members who had called for at least $40 million in service additions during meetings this year, said he expects the topic to be a "major part" of the agency's upcoming finance meetings, adding that he thinks fare hikes and extra service are "interrelated."
"He fully understands the importance of it," Pally said of Lhota's focus on adding service. "He is taking it very, very seriously."
An MTA source confirmed that Lhota wants to add back service, and that he believes it is "certainly" possible to do despite budget constraints.
"There's no way we can go back and restore everything that was cut two years ago - it's not that easy," the source said. "But there will be some increase in service, we hope."
The agency saved about $93 million by slashing dozens of bus routes and two bus lines in 2010. But next year's anticipated fare hike will also add $449 million each year to the agency's coffers.
Board member Andrew Albert said there were "at least 20" bus lines he'd like to see return.
"It's awfully hard to ask people to pay more when they're getting a lot less," Albert said. He added that some of the cuts made in 2010 proved insufficient to riders.
"There's a lot of things that were done just to meet a financial goal that didn't make transit sense," Albert said.
Former Gov. David Paterson, who joined the MTA board Wednesday and was in office when the MTA lost millions of dollars in funding, said it looked like the agency was on better financial footing now, and may be able to grow again.
"The question will be to what extent have we arisen from [the recession] so that, perhaps, services that were taken away can be restored," he said.
Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, called Lhota's plans "good news" for riders.
"The tens of millions saved by the cuts got them hundreds of millions of dollars in ill will from their riders," he said. The cuts, he said, "made for miserable service."
Lhota said the topic has weighed on him since before he joined the MTA in November.
"When I get on a train to come in every day," he said, "I do think about everybody sitting around me, standing around me."