This week, rush-hour riders on the D and R trains — the section which runs through southern and Downtown Brooklyn — were packed in like sardines, while also having their wait times doubled.
That’s thanks to the disappearance of part of the M train in Brooklyn. And that’s thanks to the worst transit cuts in many decades, killing or downsizing of scores of bus routes and all or part of three subway lines.
Disabled riders who use paratransit will face harsh cuts, too.
Literally millions of us will suffer greater waiting times, more crowding, extra transfers and longer trips.
And that’s thanks to a bad economy, to the MTA’s failure to seek transit operating aid from the federal government and to the state legislature, which cut $143 million in already-promised aid.
The news is as grim as transferring from one bus to another at 3 in the morning.
Let’s focus on one of the train cuts that’s not gotten a lot media attention: The MTA’s cuts also include new and less generous crowding standards for off-peak hours and weekends. These are called “loading guidelines,” which gives you a sense of what transit officials think of their customers.
Amazingly, current guidelines purport to provide enough service so that all off-peak and weekend riders get a seat. The guidelines that have gone into effect permit 10 to 18 standees per car at off hours, a standard that ensures longer waits and more discomfort.
By the MTA’s own estimates, more than 3.5 million riders will be negatively affected by the new rules.
On the bus side, tens of thousands of riders lost their routes or had them combined with others. In all, more than 570 bus stops where eliminated.
These cuts will hurt the city’s economy and environment. And they could have been avoided.
We know the state’s cupboards are bare. But Gov. Paterson and the MTA could have agreed to use a portion of federal stimulus funds to prevent a deterioration of service.
There’s still the possibility of getting emergency transit aid from Washington and restoring some service. Ten U.S. senators — including New York’s Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand — are sponsoring a bill that would raise hundreds of millions of dollars for New York-area transit.
So while you are waiting in the heat for that bus or train, call some wavering senators and urge them to support the measure.
Gene Russianoff is the staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, a division of the New York Public Interest Research Group.