Tough economic times and public transportation cutbacks should never go hand in hand.
That’s logic that the city is seemingly prepared to ignore, some straphanger advocates said this week, claiming that the MTA’s proposed service cuts could have a serious impact on rider safety throughout Brooklyn as well as the rest of the city.
Members of the New York City Transportation Safety Coalition said that despite assurances from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to the contrary, they believe that the MTA is playing a dangerous game with their customers.
In their efforts to fill a $1.4 billion budget hole they dug, the MTA proposes to eliminate nearly a dozen bus routes and multiple train lines. They also want to reduce trains and close station booths during the late-night hours.
To Brooklynites, the changes may mean the end to the Z train in Williamsburg and the M train that runs from downtown Brooklyn to Bay Ridge. Bus routes facing the bean counters axe include the B37, which runs from Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn, the B39, which transports residents from Williamsburg to the Lower East Side and the B75, which runs from Windsor Terrace through Carroll Gardens.
Express service from Manhattan to Brooklyn is also expected to end, said MTA officials explained.
While none of the changes will be finalized until the end of the year, the Transportation Safety Coalition, which comprises a handful of women and gender equity groups, fear the worst.
“Women who rely on taking the subway late at night will now have to wait longer at desolate stations,” explained Oraia Reid, Executive Director for RightRides for Women’s Safety. “In many neighborhoods where transit service will be cut, women will now have to walk further to get home. The MTA must make rider safety a priority for those who rely on public transit, regardless of budget cuts.”
“The MTA and NYPD have responsibility to protect minors from sexual harassment and sexual assault while they ride the subway. Now is not the time to cut critical services for the most vulnerable of MTA commuters,” added Joanne Smith, Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equity citing a recent report that a high number of people have been harassed or assaulted on the subway.
NOW-NYC President Sonia Ossorio claimed that the coalition would keep an eye on the MTA, “to ensure that safety isn’t tossed out the train window just because of budget cuts.”
MTA officials said that they believe none of the proposed cuts would affect straphanger protection.
But, safety concerns aside, some local pols just think cutting back train service is the opposite of one would want to do in the midst of an economic crisis.
“It’s an unacceptable sea change,” explained Park Slope City Councilmember Bill de Blasio. “[The MTA] talks about minor changes and then they plan on cutting entire bus lines. Brooklyn is really going to be hit hard by this.”
“In tough economic times, people trying to make ends meet are going to need our public transportation system to survive,” de Blasio explained. “Then the MTA claims they’re going to make changes. It makes us question if they have done everything they can to reduce their costs without jeopardizing essential services.”
Bay Ridge City Councilman Vincent Gentile, who spent Monday morning collecting signatures for a petition to stop the MTA from shutting down the B37 believes that getting rid of the bus line will put straphangers at risk.
“With the B37 gone, many bus users will have to walk two long avenues to get to another bus or the train,” Gentile spokesperson Dena Libner said. “That could be a dangerous prospect, especially for our elderly residents.”