DeBlasio slams shuttle bus cuts as MTA plans Hamptons express

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (c.) wants the MTA to keep the A Train shuttle bus rolling to the Rockaways. Photo courtesy Bill de Blasio
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City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has appealed to the MTA to rescind its decision to curtail A train shuttle bus service in the Rockaways while operating nonstop trains to serve Manhattanites traveling to the Hamptons.

“Talk about a Tale of Two cities!” de Blasio said at a rally in Far Rockaway last Friday.

“These aren’t just cuts — they are cuts to the transit lifeline for thousands of low-income people still suffering from [Hurricane] Sandy,” de Blasio said. “The MTA can’t throw the Rockaways under the bus. If it can expand service for Manhattanites weekending in the Hamptons, then it can afford to do right by hard-hit families in the Rockaways.”

The shuttle bus replaced A trains after Sandy hit in late October, cutting off subway service beyond Howard Beach to the Rockaways. The shuttle bus is now a critical transit source for thousands of residents in neighborhoods like Arverne, Edgemere and Far Rockaway.

But MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the shuttle bus service was introduced on an emergency basis after the hurricane and the MTA erred by making more service available than what turned out to be needed.

“With these changes we are really just making adjustments responding to actual demand,” he said. - DeBlasio, who is a Democratic candidate for mayor, blasted the MTA for cutting back weekly shuttle bus service to 75 runs from 94 runs starting April 22 and reducing weekend service by 40 percent.

He and Transit Workers Union workers were joined by state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) and City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton).

They demanded the Metropolitan Transportation Authority cancel its reduction of the shuttle bus service until repairs to the A train have been completed.

De Blasio said the 2011 U.S. census indicates New Yorkers who live near the Beach 44th Street station have the lowest median household income — $18,370 — among riders along the entire A train route.

De Blasio’s office said that at the same time the MTA is cutting shuttle service connecting struggling residents in the Rockaways to the New York City subway system, the Long Island Rail Road announced the express Cannonball train will now transport Manhattanites to the Hamptons nonstop for the first time. Reserved seats are available.

“No one is suggesting we should not have strong transit options for Long Island,” De Blasio said.

“We are disappointed that Mr. de Blasio has decided to completely and utterly misrepresent what we are doing out in the Rockaways,” Ortiz said. “We are, in fact, improving service for the vast majority of customers by shifting additional runs from off-peak periods to peak periods.”

He added, “There is no need to operate the same level of service during off-peak periods because ridership is lighter and buses complete their trips quicker because of less traffic. For off-peak customers, this equates to waiting an extra one minute for a bus.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

Posted 8:49 pm, April 25, 2013
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