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MTA: Fare Hikes, Service Cuts Could Be On The Horizon

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has prepared a tough cost-cutting proposal for consideration at Thursday's meeting which includes entire subway lines and bus routes disappearing and more than a thousand workers laid off.

Sources close to the budget process also say that the agency will propose a fare hike even greater than the eight-percent increase previously discussed.

NY1 has learned that officials are proposing dropping the W and Z lines completely, as well as cutting more than 1,500 station agent and administrative jobs.

The plan also calls for the G and M lines to be essentially cut in half and express service on the J train would be eliminated.

The J and Z lines average 175,000 daily commuters between them.

Overnight trains would be scheduled to run every 30 minutes instead of every 20. Midday service would also be cut back.

Dozens of bus routes with low ridership would be eliminated during late nights and weekends.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. released a statement denouncing the MTA's proposal to eliminate the W line.

"Astoria is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city, and its trains are already overflowing with passengers," said Vallone. "To cut the only service to this neighborhood in half would be like choking the breath out of this community."

Although other lines also pass through Astoria, cutting the W would mean longer waits and more crowded trains for the 100,000 people who take the train each day.

"Hopefully they'd up the N service," said an Astoria resident upon hearing about the proposed cuts.

Straphangers say they are already dealing with slow service and the increased cuts will hurt both their commutes and their wallets.

"It's absurd, the service as it is is horrible; it's deplorable," said one straphanger. "You thinking of raising the fares, it's disgusting. I'm going to walk. I'm going to walk the bridge everyday instead."

"It's going to affect me budget-wise because I'm going to be spending more money to come to school and go to work," said another.

"The trains, I'd say, have been improving on their time," said a third. "I'm not sure what their plans are, but honestly, the economy is down and they have to do what they have to do."

Agency officials say the drastic measures may be necessary if the state does not step in with a bailout plan to help close a projected 2009 budget shortfall of $1.2 billion.

The city has already refused a funding infusion of $187 million, and state tax revenues normally funneled to the MTA fall short for next year.

Transit advocates admitted that the agency faces a dire financial situation.

"They're being hit by two big factors. One is that they are being funded by taxes that are sensitive to the economy. With income taxes down and sales taxes down, they’re going to get hurt and they are being hurt,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “At the same time, they borrowed an extraordinary sum of money. So they’ve got $25 billion to do important things like build the system."

In a statement today, an MTA spokesman refused to confirm details of the projected cuts before Thursday's board meeting, but said the MTA began belt tightening long before the current financial crisis, and budget cuts start with even more significant administrative and managerial cuts.

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