No to Subway Service Cuts—Yes to More State Funding
By Arthur Z. Schwartz
City leaders and transit advocates rallied outside of Grand Central Terminal on February 22 to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to invest more money into increasing bus and subway frequency in her upcoming state budget.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams joined area politicians, Transit Workers Union Local 100 leaders and members of transit advocacy group Riders Alliance in calling for an additional $300 million for more frequent off-peak bus and subway service and to oppose a proposal to reduce subway service on Mondays and Fridays.
The new President of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents bus and subway workers, chided the Authority. “How can they talk about getting working people to return to the subway system on Mondays and Fridays, and on all days, and then cut service? It’s illogical. Davis announced that the union is planning to sue to stop the cuts if the MTA doesn’t back down by March 3. The cuts are scheduled to be implemented in June.
“Transit equity demands that Governor Hochul and legislative leaders negotiate a budget that funds more frequent subway and bus service,” Riders Alliance Lead Organizer Mayra Aldás-Deckert said. “Workers commuting off-peak wait 12, 15, even 20 minutes for buses and trains… riders sometimes spend more time waiting for service than we do traveling to our destinations.”
Hochul’s current budget includes a number of MTA-related financial proposals, including among other things $800 million in funding from payroll taxes, $500 million in annual contributions from New York City, $300 million in one-time state aid, and future funding from casinos.
Hochul also said she wants the MTA to find more than $400 million in savings—something transit advocates interpret as service cuts. In December, the MTA announced reduced service on Mondays and Fridays, and increased service on weekends. Hochul has denied service cuts are a part of the plan to deal with the lower revenue which the NYC Transit Authority faces since the Pandemic hit in 2020.
“We’re facing a fiscal cliff,” Hochul said on Tuesday. “All of us have to share in the pain of saving this because we have to. This is the lifeblood of the region. We cannot let the MTA fail or reduce services.”
But those at the rally on February 22 maintained that there’s room in the budget for more money for the MTA for increased service without service cuts or fare hikes.
“What we are going to get this year in the budget is that we don’t have a fare hike, we do not take the hike to three dollars, is to ensure that have frequent service, six-minute service for our trains, 20% increase across our bus system, and to make buses free across New York City,” said Assemblymember Zohran Kwame Mamdani, who introduced a proposal to “fix” the MTA in December.
Riders Alliance Executive Director Betsy Plum announced a campaign to bring about six-minute off-peak subway service. “Six-minute service is what’s available on more than half of subway lines already during the rush hour, so the MTA is well set up to provide it.”
State Senator Andrew Gounardes, from South Brooklyn, said “We had to first deal with the MTA’s fiscal cliff, and it’s important that we fill the hole. But we all know that we need better service and we need more service. And to get better service and more service we need more funding. So I view the governor’s proposal as a starting point in these negotiations [so] it’s going to be our mission over the next 10 to 12 weeks [the period when the budget is negotiated] … that we boost that number as much as possible.”
“I do think that the real answer to funding six-minute service, increased bus service and a whole host of the priorities of the fix the MTA platform comes from taxing the wealthiest New Yorkers,” Mamdani said. “There’s so much on the table like the personal income tax and corporate taxes, we can increase the capital gains inheritance taxes. There are a whole host of things on the table.”
Arthur Z. Schwartz is Special Assistant to the President of TWU Local 100, and represents the union in its litigation with the NYC Transit Authority.