MTA finance committee approves budget

December 14, 2009 8:24:52 PM PST
The MTA board's finance committee approved a plan to deal with its massive budget deficit.Two subway lines and almost two dozen bus routes are on the chopping block.

The cuts would hit hardest for people like Cicely White, who religiously rides the B37, one of 21 bus routes which may simply vanish.

"A lot of people were talking about it at the bus stop in the past couple of weeks, how difficult it's gonna be. You have to walk over there to take the 63. It's gone be very hard," said White.

Saddled with $343 million in debt, the MTA Finance Committee is considering drastic cuts, particularly among bus service. On the chopping block are six routes in Manhattan, six in Brooklyn, five in Queens and four in the Bronx, along with the W and Z subway lines.

"To present a balanced budget despite losing hundreds of millions of dollars in State funding over the past two weeks requires measures that are painful to the MTA, our employees and our customers," said MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary J. Dellaverson, who presented the proposed budget to the committee. "Given the ongoing downturn in the broader economy and the resultant economic crisis facing the State, we have worked to balance the budget while maintaining our commitment to riders not to increase fares in 2010."

The proposal is so dramatic because the new MTA chairman has promised he won't raise fares.

A court ruling Friday forced the MTA to go ahead with an 11.5 percent wage increase, which it says would cost an additional $300 million.

But whatever the MTA's problems, Cicely White simply can't fathom how it spent itself into such a crisis.

"As far as I'm concerned, they make quite a lot of money," she said. "There are so many riders, millions of riders, how are they constantly deep? I don't understand. I really don't."

The budget passed in committee by a 6-1 vote. The only "no" vote came from committee member Allen Cappelli. The full MTA board will vote on Wednesday.