By Olivia Scheck
COLUMBUS CIRCLE — As straphangers adjusted to the recent round of MTA fare hikes, a local transportation advocacy group took to the subway to warn of possible future increases.
Staff and volunteers from Transportation Alternatives boarded an uptown A train at Columbus Circle Thursday for what they termed a "mobile protest," warning riders to "watch their wallets," lest Albany lawmakers "steal" their transit dollars to fill the state’s $9 billion projected budget gap.
"Governor Paterson balanced the budget by stealing money from transit riders," Deputy Director Noah Budnick insisted. "Today transit riders are sending a message to Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to back off transit funding."
TA Executive Director Paul Steely White was among the protesters, attempting to bring the message to a subway car of distracted midday travelers.
"Last year we had the biggest service cuts in a generation coupled with a fare hike," White told the crowd. "We want to prevent this from happening again."
White and his associates distributed information about how to contact Gov. Andrew Cuomo to encourage him not to divert funds from the MTA in his upcoming executive budget.
The action, which lasted only one stop, from 59th to 125th Street, was the first in what the organization promises will be a string of protests, called the "Rider Rebellion."
While TA claims to have 12,000 bus and subway riders signed up in support of the campaign, only around a dozen people showed up for Thursday’s mobile rally.
Still, Chad Lindsey, a Queens resident entering Columbus Circle following the protest, applauded the group’s efforts.
"Anytime citizens get together to voice their opinion, whether or not I agree with it, I think it's great. I think it's what makes New York New York."