2 subway lines to make their final runs amid NY transit agency budget woes, commuters dismayed

By Marc Beja, AP
Friday, June 25, 2010

2 subway lines to end amid NYC transit budget woes

NEW YORK — New Yorkers took some subways and buses for the last time on Friday, a few of them carrying cardboard tombstones to mourn the end of their favorite commuting routes.

Donna Brown, 46, who takes the B39 bus from Brooklyn to Manhattan every morning, worried about how she would handle a subway. She said she is claustrophobic and suffers from anxiety attacks on crowded trains but hasn’t decided how she will get to work next week.

“I’m going to worry about that on Monday,” she said. “I don’t even want to think about it.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is slashing service lines this weekend, rerouting and reducing remaining services and adding frustration to the lives of millions of travelers as the agency grapples with an $800 million budget gap.

Dozens of Queens residents joined Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. on Friday morning for a mock funeral for the death of the 8-year-old V and W subway lines, which run in Queens and Manhattan. They held flowers, posters and tombstones made of cardboard.

“We now face longer commutes, more crowded commutes and more transfers,” Vallone said. “All because the MTA is unable to run a business and because Albany took away funding from the MTA.”

The MTA’s cuts reach across the city. The V and W were scheduled to make their final runs Friday night. By Monday morning, the M line will be rerouted to cover some of the V stations in lower Manhattan.

Subways will run less often, especially at night and on the weekend. Three million people are expected to have to wait for trains for up to two extra minutes, saving the MTA more than $8 million. Service on the G line, from Brooklyn to Queens, will be shortened, which the MTA says will save $1.5 million.

The city’s bus lines also are taking a hit, with 37 of 385 routes eliminated and others facing service reductions at night and on weekends. Train and bus service also has been reduced in New York’s suburbs.

The agency says the cuts will save $93 million, with the two subway line cuts saving $7.4 million annually. In recent weeks, signs of the impending change became more noticeable — blacked-out symbols for the soon-to-be-cut lines at subway entrances, and the symbol for the M train changing from brown to orange, the color of the V line.

Posters and brochures have gone up at subway and bus stops to warn commuters of the cuts, but some were still unaware. Told about the changes, they were resigned.

Ernesto Arce, a disabled former armor truck employee who takes the bus from Brooklyn to Manhattan to visit relatives and doctors, said he had no idea his bus was being canceled when he left it Friday morning.

To make the same trip next week, he says, he will have to take a bus, transfer to a train and then to another bus.

“It’s just time consuming, but what are you gonna do?” said Arce, 50, of Brooklyn. “And then the fares are gonna go up and what’s gonna happen the following year, more cuts?”

In Brooklyn, three disabled women sued Friday in state Supreme Court, claiming the MTA cuts would limit their mobility. There are no handicapped-accessible subway stations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, where they live, attorney Sal Strazzullo said at a news conference. Two of the women are in wheelchairs, and one woman uses a cane.

“They do not have the ability to get to places in the city if the MTA goes through with these cuts,” Strazzullo said.

A judge denied a request to suspend the changes, but ordered the MTA and parties to court July 22 to review how the transportation gap will be filled after the cuts go into effect, according to city councilman Vincent Gentile, who supported the suit.

The cuts to bus routes Sunday will affect more than just the commuters — hundreds of bus operators and mechanics will be fired.

Transport Workers Union President John Samuelson said he would not accept the MTA’s latest offer, which would save those jobs and possibly rehire employees already laid off, because there was no promise that there wouldn’t be layoffs in the future.

The MTA also is trying to reduce overtime costs and to offer buyouts or lay off administrative workers.

The agency is scheduled to release an updated budget for 2010 and its budget for 2011 in July. The agency had originally said it would raise fares in 2011 by 7.5 percent, but that figure may change. The current one-way bus or subway fare is $2.25.

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