Straphangers have grown accustomed to bad news ever since the recession caused the MTA to make sweeping cuts to transit services. But fingers were crossed in neighborhoods across New York City last week, after MTA chief Joseph Lhota implied that a range of defunct transit services would be restored. On Thursday, the MTA made the restorations official, and added five new bus lines — the first additions since 1999 — to boot! The MTA said it will roll out the services over the next months, at an added cost of $29 million per year.
The MTA will restore about a third of the services that were lost in 2010, a dark time for straphangers, when $93 million in cuts were made to balance the transit authority’s budget. The MTA said the restorations were made possible due to surging ridership rates, the highest since the 1950s.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how to improve both the quality and quantity of service for our riders, and I’m pleased that these investments will make a difference in the lives of our customers,” said Lhota in a written statement.
The restorations include 13 bus lines in all five boroughs: the Bx34, the B2, the B4, the B24, the B39, the B48, the B64, the B69, the M1, the M21, the Q42, the Q76 and the S76. New routes, scheduled to open by September of 2013, include service for the far West Side of Manhattan, South Brooklyn and Hunts Point in the Bronx.
Additionally, the MTA said it will continue extended service on the G Train to Church Avenue, which was originally designed as a temporary substitute for the Smith-9th Street station during renovations. More trains and expanded hours will be added to existing routes on MetroNorth and LIRR lines.
Some of the added bus lines essentially replace other routes that were cut, but will not be brought back.
In Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood historically underserved by transit, a campaign to bring back the B77 line was waged by residents, elected officials and bus drivers. While the MTA isn’t bringing back the B77, the B57 will be set to follow a similar route, and relieves pressure from the B61, which straphangers across South Brooklyn complain is constantly overcrowded.
“It doesn’t bring back the 77 but it’s going to help relieve some of the mass transit issues. It’s a result of communities and unions working together,” said JP Patafio, an organizer with the TWU, who has been involved with Red Hook’s “Bring Back Our Bus Campaign” since the spring.
While Patafio was happy with the news, he said there is still work to be done, particularly in the service of those who can’t access their local subway stops.
“There are other routes like the B37 that need to be brought back,” said Patafio. “There was the B51. A lot of disabled and elderly people used that bus to go to Manhattan over the Manhattan Bridge — people who couldn’t use the stairs to get to subways and wheelchair passengers are still left out.”
While the B51 remains in limbo, senior citizens and the disabled who need to go to and from North Brooklyn had cause to celebrate.
“The plan calls for restoring service on the B39 across the Williamsburg Bridge and is a victory for the disabled community,” said Gene Russianoff, chief spokesperson and staff attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group’s Straphangers Campaign, in a written statement.
“MetroFocus: Transforming Transportation” premieres on Tuesday, July 24 at 10:30 p.m. on WLIW21; Wednesday, July 25 at 10:30 p.m. on NJTV; and Thursday, July 26 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.