FINANCIAL DISTRICT - A group of advocates and elected officials on Sunday called on the MTA to use an unexpected $40 million surplus to restore 2010 service cuts.
At a rally across the street from MTA headquarters Downtown, board member Allen P. Cappelli pledged a budget amendment to set aside the extra cash to fund service upgrades and expansions.
“This will not be an easy effort,” Cappelli said. “There are a lot of groups trying to get resources.”
Advocates want the surplus go restore services that were cut in 2010 when the MTA budget was slashed by $93 million.
So far, the MTA has only restored $29 million is service restorations, according to the Riders Alliance.
This includes restoring weekend and peak hour subway services, adding an LIRR service during the evening rush, and increasing bus services.
About 25 commuters — most affiliated with the advocacy group — stood behind the speakers holding colorful signs that read “More Buses,” and “More Trains.”
They came from parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan to speak about how the quality of their commute has declined since the 2010 cuts.
“I lost the B69 bus,” said Thomasin Bentley of Brooklyn, whose commute time has doubled since the cuts. “Lots of people in Brooklyn and other parts of New York relied on bus service that we lost, and now it takes us longer to get wherever we’re trying to go.”
Another commuter, Patty Hutton, said she recently had to wait 45 minutes on the 59th Street platform her train home to Bay Ridge.
"The loudspeaker just kept saying 'the train will be here soon,'" she said.
More than 1.6 billion people used the city's public transportation system last year. Advocates say that that is the highest ridership number the city has had since 1950 and the increased demand calls for an increase in quality.
Elected officials from Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn spoke in favor of taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the surplus to improve transit service.
City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, called for more cross-town service to help ease congestion. Councilman Stephen Levin of Brooklyn called for service expansion to accommodate increased ridership.
Assembly members David Weprin and Nily Rozic of east Queens said reduced service hurts elderly people who rely on busses to get to their medical appointments. Rozic described her district, where there are no subway stops or lines, as a transit desert and asked the MTA to restore bus routes.
Advocates and elected officials fear that if the surplus isn’t used for restoring services they will lose the opportunity to increase the quality of public transportation. Although the speakers lobbied for different services, they all agreed that the $40 million should be put in a service restoration and enhancement fund.
“We’re worried if we don’t grab it we will lose it,”said John Raskin executive director of the Alliance.