With most board members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority expressing displeasure but still hope that the state Legislature would come to the rescue with major money, the MTA Wednesday approved a budget that would inflict crippling service cuts and a 23 percent fare increase on buses, subways, commuter trains and tolls.
The basic fare for straphangers riding buses and subways could rise to at least $2.50.
“Today we fulfilled our requirement to adopt a balanced budget within the constraints of existing resources and those resources are simply not great enough,” Dale Hemmerdinger, chairman of the MTA, told the board meeting at the agency’s Manhattan headquarters.
He expressed “fervent hope that this budget can be amended before it is implemented.”
But Hemmerdinger said the Draconian service cuts and heavy fare hikes in the 2009 budget were not a ploy that was never intended for reality.
“We will put this budget into effect in the event the money we so desperately need is not forthcoming,” he said.
The budget was approved by a vote of 13-1 with Norman Seabrook of the Bronx opposing it.
The budget approval closes a $1.2 billion deficit caused by falling tax revenues, higher fuel costs and rising interest as the result of years of prodigious borrowing by the MTA.
The MTA is required by law to come up with a balanced budget by Jan. 1, 2009.
Members of the public, including transit activists, community leaders and borough presidents spoke before the meeting began, expressing outrage and incredulity over cuts that would do away with the W and Z subway lines in Queens, shorten others and cut more than a dozen bus lines.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Manhattan Borough President Scott String both assailed the service cuts with Stringer calling the more than doubling of fares on Access-a-Ride service for the disabled and elderly “nothing less than an assault on the most vulnerable of New Yorkers.”
One speaker ended with a verbal attack on the MTA by calling out the name of MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander, who sat on the other side of the room and reaching for his shoe as if to throw it at Sander. Security men grabbed and removed him from the meeting. The New York Post identified him as Stephen Millies, 54, an Amtrak worker who lives Jackson Heights.
Sander has said that if the cash infusion the MTA needs is not forthcoming by March, the MTA would began carrying out service cuts and that fare hikes would start in June.
©2008 Community News Group
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