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  February 22, 2004

Get the MTA on Board for New York City
By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

Starting last week, all four subway tracks crossing the Manhattan Bridge will be in full service for the first time since 1986. That’s wonderful news for the roughly 600,000 people who ride the B,D,M,N,Q,R and W lines each day; it will mean less crowding, fewer transfers, and faster, easier commutes.

Getting the service across the bridge restored took teamwork between City government and the MTA. That same spirit of cooperation is badly needed to improve service for another group of commuters in our city: the more than 390,000 hard-working people in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx who use franchise buses—subsidized by the City—to get to their jobs in Manhattan and back home again each weekday. But unfortunately, the MTA is showing more interest in improving life for suburban commuters than in helping these riders. And every straphanger in the city is getting squeezed in the process.

Here are the facts. Ever since our Administration came into office more than two years ago, we’ve been urging the MTA to take over operation of the seven franchise bus lines. Because of rising costs, the private operators are having a harder and harder time providing riders with reliable, high-quality service. Service is actually deteriorating, and interruptions to service because of labor disputes are an ever-present threat. An MTA takeover is the only logical solution.

The MTA has resisted this idea by crying poverty, even though the cost of running these lines would be a drop in the bucket of the MTA’s overall $8 billion annual operating budget. And then just last month, the MTA Board voted to add more than $230 million to its current $19 billion Capital Plan in order to buy new rail cars for riders of the Metro-North line serving the northern suburbs. I’ve got no problem with improving Metro-North service—but not if it comes at the expense of the city.

Unfortunately, it is. For more than 20 years, there has been a “fair share” formula for dividing up the MTA’s capital budget; it has provided City riders with at least 75% of the pie. But the January decision—which the City’s representatives on the MTA Board voted against—cuts that down to 72%. We’re telling State leaders in Albany, who must approve this new expenditure, that to maintain the City’s fair share, the MTA should add capital spending in the five boroughs—enough to improve service for riders of the now-privately operated bus lines.

The MTA will be proposing a new five-year Capital Plan in October; we’re not going to stand for any precedent that short-changes city bus and subway riders. It took 18 years to bring back full subway service across the Manhattan Bridge. There’s no reason that it should take anything like that long to restore better bus service, and fair share transit spending, to the people of our city.