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Commuters wary of MTA cuts

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Brooklyn transit riders were dealt a severe blow by the service cuts and likely fare increases announced by the MTA last week in a troubling sign of the dire financial straits that plague an agency that recently announced a budget deficit of $1.4 million.

As part of its desperate attempt to survive a sea of red ink, the MTA has proposed plans to altogether eliminate the Z train, cut off G train service at Court Square in Long Island City, Queens, and terminate M train service at Manhattan’s Broad Street, which would eliminate the line’s rush hour trips into Brooklyn.

On a citywide level, all “letter-line” trains will see their rush hour wait times increase from an average of eight minutes to 10 minutes. After-midnight waits for these lines would increase from 20 to 30 minutes.

Fares on subways and buses are expected to increase substantially too, although MTA officials would not speculate by how much. A recent New York Times article said the base fare would likely increase from $2.00 to at least $2.50, with the monthly unlimited Metrocard increasing from $81 to $100. Regarding that possibility, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said, “That’s not anything we said.”

In addition to the cuts for subway service, the agency has proposed eliminating or scaling back service on many of Brooklyn’s buses and express buses.

According to the MTA press office, service on the B23, 25, 37, 39, 51 and 75 would be eliminated altogether. The agency described these routes as “low-performing routes with alternatives available.”

Overnight service will be eliminated on the B7, 14, 31, 45, 48, 57, 64, 67 and 77, other low-performing routes.

Weekend service would be discontinued on the B2, 4, 7, 16, 23, 24, 37, 39, 48, 57, 65, 69, 71 and 75, which were also characterized as low-performing. Weekend service would be eliminated on the B25, which has a route that duplicates the subway.

Also on the chopping block was weekend service on the X27 and X28 express bus lines, which run from Bay Ridge into Manhattan. Also, fares on express buses are proposed to go up from $5 to $7.50.

The MTA is also considering levying tolls on the East River bridges — the Brooklyn, the Manhattan, the Williamsburg, and the Queensboro — which are currently free.

In addition, the MTA plans to close station booths and reduce jobs throughout the agency.

The cuts were met with deep disappointment throughout Brooklyn from both residents and elected officials.

Joseph Lentol, a State Assemblyman whose district mostly includes Williamsburg and Greenpoint, lamented the G train’s status as the “neglected stepchild” of the system.

“It seems like the first thing out of anyone’s mouth any time there is a budget cut is the G train. These budget cuts give them the excuse to do what they have been wanting to do for years: officially end the line at Court Square,” he said.

Lentol said that regular G train service to Forrest Hills could foster inter-borough commerce between Brooklyn and Queens, thereby alleviating overcrowding on Manhattan-bound trains. He said that many of his constituents might use the G to access the shopping malls and even hospitals in Forest Hills if only the line were a viable option.

The elimination of the Z train, which operates skip-stop service with the J during peak hours, means that the J — which currently runs express through parts of its route — will make all local stops on the line. According to Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, this will add around 10 to 15 minutes to commuting times from Williamsburg and Bushwick.

Said Councilwoman Diana Reyna, whose district includes Williamsburg and Bushwick, “Riders’ daily commute to work will become a more grueling journey, with more crowded trains and longer waits on the platform.”

Councilman Vincent Gentile bemoaned the elimination of M train service in Brooklyn, which, during rush hour, duplicates D train service in Sunset Park and Benshonhurst and duplicates R line service in Downtown Brooklyn and Sunset Park.

“The M train is an important resource for rush hour commuters. Abandoning the M in south Brooklyn means more people on fewer trains and longer commutes, again abandoning the working families in South Brooklyn,” he said.

Both Gentile and State Senator Martin Golden have long advocated for preserving weekend service of the X27 and X28 express buses into Manhattan, which give their constituents access to Manhattan on weekends.

“If those buses were cut, working families would need to rely on the N, R, and D lines, which don’t run express on weekends. Cutting south Brooklyn’s access to Manhattan is a terrible financial fix on the part of the MTA,” Gentile said.

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