2,500 Attend Region-Wide Hearings
Last week, the MTA concluded a series of nine public hearings to solicit input on cuts needed to help address a nearly $800 million budget gap. More than 2,500 people attended the hearings across the metropolitan region, and MTA Board members and officials heard from more than 500 speakers. The public input is being reviewed and some changes are expected in the package of service cuts the Board will consider on March 24.
The public input process began in earnest in January, when the MTA made an unprecedented level of information available so the riding public could fully understand exactly how these proposals were developed and the impacts associated with these changes well in advance of the public hearings. The hearings kicked off on March 1 in Westchester and Nassau counties, and made stops in all five New York City boroughs, Suffolk and Rockland counties over the following week.
"It is incredibly important to hear directly from our customers about the impact of these proposals," said MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder. "Because the MTA's transit system is fundamental to our lives as New Yorkers, any service cuts are extremely painful. I was greatly affected by the many stories we heard at the hearings."
The cuts — including the elimination of discounted and free student fares in New York City — were proposed in December to help close a $383 million deficit that developed due largely to a State budget cut and the failure of the new payroll tax to meet State revenue projections. An additional $378 million deficit materialized in February due mostly to further deterioration in payroll tax revenues. The MTA has begun to re-evaluate how it provides service to dramatically reduce costs. In February, the MTA announced the elimination of more than 600 administrative positions, representing 15 percent of administrative payroll across the MTA.
"The State's economic crisis has forced the MTA to make tough decisions with painful impacts, beginning with overhauling how we do business," said Chairman Walder. "Unfortunately service cuts are part of that discussion, but we have listened closely to our customers and will respond by making changes where we can. At the same time, we must focus on additional cost-cutting ideas to close the new deficit that these cuts don't address."
MTA board members will review all testimony from the hearings as well as comments submitted online and by regular mail before considering the changes at the Board's March 24 meeting. If approved, most of the service changes would commence in June.
Chairman Walder has also agreed to meet with student leaders next week to continue the dialogue regarding school fares. The school fare changes would be phased in beginning in September.