Proposed MTA Cuts Would Curtail Train Service And Derail Island's Economic Growth
"We can't have transit-oriented development without transit."
--Eric Alexander, executive director, Vision Long Island
If getting around Long Island other than by car weren't already so difficult, what with local means of transportation limited to the automobile or LI Bus (where service timetables are thrown under that proverbial bus, and does it really get you where you need to be, when you want to go?), the MTA plans to cut service -- and, in some instances, eliminate it entirely (as in weekend service on the West Hempstead branch of the LIRR, cancellation of service from Ronkonkoma to Greenport except for summer weekends, the reduction of trains on the Port Washington branch, and the elimination of 13 Long Island Bus routes).
Talk about a stab-in-the-chest to highly-touted and much in demand transit-oriented development, revitalizing downtown with residential, recreational and commercial growth centered around existing transportation hubs, such as LIRR stations.
West Hempstead's shot at downtown redemption, too long delayed though it has been (thank you, Kate Murray), hinged hopes on the demolition of the infamous Courtesy Hotel, rising in its place a beneficial mix of residences (high-end rental units), businesses, and green space, all within steps of the LIRR station.
Great news -- but for the fact that the struggling MTA intends to do away entirely with weekend service on the line that would serve the new development.
So much for being transit-oriented.
True, savings could be had by eliminating highly-paid positions at the MTA, its failed and incompetent board, or the agency itself, which obviously is incapable of managing our tax money, let alone running a railroad. [In private industry, these execs would be fired. In Japan, they'd likely commit hari kari. (Take that, Mr. Toyoda)]
But noooooooo. Here in New York, under the auspices of this God-awful public authority (public nuisance is more like it), the rich get richer (and they get Metrocards, too), and the rest of us get to take a hike, literally.
Transit-oriented development opens the door to growth, gives moment to community's resurgence -- particularly in our forgotten and neglected downtown business districts -- and is the very hallmark of sustainability.
The MTA does a diservice to the Long Island community by proposing to trim rail (and bus) service to our towns and hamlets, cutting vital arteries when we sorely need a shot in the arm.
Like the abandoned rail lines that wend through uninhabited ghost towns, the MTA's portended actions threaten to destabilize Long Island, further hasten the departure (by car, no doubt) of the island's youth and essential workforce, and stagnate the local economy more so than it already is.
Be mindful of the gap. Too bad no one at MTA was...
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From our good friends at the West Hempstead Community Support and Civic Associations:
As a follow up of the March 1st MTA Public Hearing, I want to let you know that I attended the hearing and spoke about the detrimental impact the proposed elimination of the 8:28 AM weekday train and the elimination of weekend service on the West Hempstead Branch of the LIRR would have on our residents and business owners. We all have to start applying pressure to keep these cuts from happening.
One person, even when speaking on behalf of virtually everyone living in West Hempstead, is never as powerful, nor as convincing as "hundreds of letters AND emails" coming from the people who live in West Hempstead. It is fully understandable, given the time of the meeting, that many of you were unable to attend, but, everyone can send a letter and/or an email. Phone calls to the MTA are equally as important. Let their switchboard light up, and maybe they will see the "light".
Send a brief letter or email, to our state representatives, telling them you are opposed to the proposed elimination of the 8:28 AM weekday train from the West Hempstead Branch of the LIRR, and the elimination of weekend service on the West Hempstead Branch. Urge them to stop the MTA from making service cuts to the West Hempstead Branch of the LIRR. Letters should be sent to:
Senator Dean Skelos - 55 Front St., Rockville Centre, NY 11570
Assemblyman Tom Alfano - 925 Hempstead Tpke, Franklin Square, NY 11010
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
CALL the MTA at: (212) 878-7483, in addition go to their website to register your opposition.
MTA website: www.mta.info.
Working together we can prevent this from happening. Reach out to your neighbors and friends asking them to write letters and call the MTA telling them you are opposed to their proposals to cut services on the West Hempstead Branch of the LIRR.
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From the pages of Newsday:
Train, bus service cuts protested at MTA hearing
by JENNIFER MALONEY / firstname.lastname@example.org
Outraged commuters, politicians and union members excoriated Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials Monday night in a rowdy public hearing on planned service cuts at the Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Bus and other MTA agencies.
"I've been crushed, stepped on, sat on," said Debbie Kouns, 42, who commutes two hours each way by bus from Huntington to her job at a doctor's office in Port Washington.
"Skin-to-skin contact-that's nasty, that's disgusting," she said, describing bus overcrowding to the officials, including MTA chairman Jay H. Walder and board members Mitchell Pally and Allen Cappelli.
"Health risk is involved," Kouns said. "But you don't care about that, do you?"
As the audience whooped and whistled, a man in the audience shouted: "They have drivers!"
Some 300 people, many wearing union T-shirts, attended the public hearing - one of nine being held across the region and the first of two on Long Island - which began shortly after 6 p.m. at Chateau Briand, 440 Old Country Rd.
In December, facing a $383-million gap in its 2010 budget, the MTA board approved broad service and administrative reductions across its agencies. But the transportation authority must hear from riders before the board votes to adopt specific service changes in service.
A second Long Island hearing will be held March 8 at Riverhead County Center, at 210 Center Dr., in Riverhead.
The proposed cuts include the cancellation of LIRR service from Ronkonkoma to Greenport except for summer weekends, the reduction of trains on the Port Washington branch and the elimination of 13 Long Island Bus routes.
The railroad announced last week that it would eliminate about 90 administrative jobs and some 60 other workers, mostly engineers and conductors.
LIRR officials said that those cuts are just the first wave, as the MTA struggles to regain financial footing after addressing its $383-million deficit in December, only to learn that it now faces another $378-million drop in tax revenue.
Monday night a parade of elected officials, from Malverne Mayor Patricia Norris-McDonald to staffers representing state senators and Assembly members - who were in legislative session in Albany - blasted the MTA for laying off workers and cutting service after the state bailed out the agency last year with a new payroll tax.
"What you're doing is 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where you should be going," Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) said. "What happened? You got your new tax."
Speaking to reporters before the hearing, Walder called service cuts "inevitable" because of the $750-million financial hole his agency faces.
"The service changes do involve pain," he said."They will affect people's lives and they will make it more difficult for people to get to work.
. . . We're sorry about that. Unfortunately we can't spend money that we don't have."
But rider advocates and development experts questioned Walder's plan Monday, arguing that the agency could transfer $90 million in stimulus funds from its capital budget to supplement its operating budget.
Calling the cuts "horrific" and "tone-deaf," Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, said: "We can't have transit-oriented development without transit."