B4 Cuts Revised, But Still Problematic

Allan Rosen is a 25-year veteran of the MTA, including a former Director of Bus Planning. He’s also a Sheepshead Bay-area resident and one of the original planners behind the B4 route. He previously criticized the MTA’s latest round of cuts, and here he questions the revisions made and the amount of thought given to residents’ objections.

On Friday, the MTA announced a set of revised service cuts that are expected to be voted on by Board members on   Wednesday. The fact alone that only two weeks were allowed to review and evaluate all the public comments for well over 100 major route and service changes is ridiculous in itself when the MTA ordinarily makes only about ten route changes per year and studies each of those for an average of two years.

The MTA is like a doctor doing surgery without doing the proper diagnostic tests. Standard planning practice is to use passenger traffic counts to determine schedule changes and origin destination surveys, i.e. asking people where they are beginning and ending their trips to determine route changes or eliminations.  Yet the MTA uses the former to do both.  Also, like doctors, they are playing with people’s lives. There are four nursing homes and assisted living facilities along Emmons Avenue where the B4 is now proposed for weekend and partial weekday elimination, leaving some visitors with no mass transit option to visit their loved ones or employees to get to work.  At the same time the City and the MTA are promoting “Leave your car home and use mass transit” campaigns.

The revision to B4 service will restore weekday service, but only from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and reroutes the bus from Neptune Avenue to Avenue Z.  They are starting at 2 p.m. because I told them about the high afternoon ridership which apparently they overlooked. What else are they overlooking? The move to Avenue Z could be a great idea or it could be a bad one. Long story short, you would only know by doing the proper diagnostic tests, i.e. proper surveys, which are not being done.  They are only guessing which is something New Yorkers just cannot afford.

A month or two ago, the MTA announced that it will not be necessary to cut administrative salaries by 10 percent at this time as earlier proposed to help close the budget gap, but they may consider this again later this year.  Why wouldn’t that be necessary now?  Did they find a new source of revenue?  If so, why not cancel more of the proposed cuts or will a new set of cuts be announced this summer to make up for the ones being dropped this month with more hearings on those cuts in the fall?  All this while the MTA continues to ponder the 10 percent cut in administrative salaries.

It appears that I was correct in my testimony when I stated that the MTA’s strategy is to overwhelm with so many proposed service cuts all that once that it will be impossible to fight most of them and that is exactly what is happening.  I do not believe any of the written testimony submitted to the Board was even reviewed by New York City Transit staff.  There was just not enough time. The only reason my testimony was reviewed was because I sent copies directly to the planners involved. They even omitted one hour and forty minutes of testimony at the Brooklyn hearing on the MTA website while stating that the entire hearing was posted.  What happened between 8:06 and 9:56 PM? Where is that testimony? So how can we trust that anyone reviewed the written testimony submitted, not mention the phone calls and e-mails?

One point is clear from all this. The MTA continues to do whatever it damn well pleases and needs to be better regulated. As an example, legislative approval should be required before they are allowed to change crowding level guidelines (which they recently did) or walking guidelines that would allow them to reduce service even further. But what does it matter anyway? They just violate them by measuring distances as the crow flies and are never challenged.