State senator to survey express bus riders

Express bus riders angered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans to slash the services they use will have the opportunity to speak out, early next month, as one local elected official takes to the streets with a petition and a survey.

State Senator Diane Savino and her staff will hunker down, in the early morning hours, at three express bus stops in Brooklyn during the first week in February, “talking to riders to find out what their needs are,” Savino explained.

They will be at the Surf Avenue and Stillwell Avenue stop of the X29 bus at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, February 3rd.

The following day, Thursday, February 4th, at 7 a.m., they will be at the Cropsey Avenue and Canal Street stop of the X28 and X30 buses.

Finally, on Friday, February 5th, also at 7 a.m., the senator will be at the 65th Street and Third Avenue stop of the X27 and X37 buses.

The petition can also be signed on line at http://www.nysenate.gov/petition/tell-mta-no-express-bus-reductions.

Savino – who represents portions of southwestern Brooklyn as well as a chunk of Staten Island – has rejected the plan recently unveiled by the MTA to cut express bus service that is important to her constituents in order to save local bus routes.

She has also bashed the MTA plans, overall, as Manhattan-centric.

The MTA’s proposal, Savino told this paper, is, “An attempt to reduce services to areas of the city thatare already disproportionately under-served.

“Every time there’s a budget crisis,” she went on, “they go back to the same idea of cutting outer borough service. That’s got to stop.”

The MTA has rejiggered its proposal to save one bus that goes through Central Park, Savino pointed out, even though there are five of them, but, at the same time, has no compunction about cutting buses that effectively reduce transportation options for residents of Coney Island and Bay Ridge, who have fewer options to start with.

“If there is going to be shared sacrifice,” Savino declared, “why do they always go back to the people who have the least options?”

Savino said she is hoping that the results of her survey – which will show how rank-and-file riders feel about the proposed service cuts – will have an impact on the MTA board at decision time.

“One of the reasons why I want to do this,” she explained, “is that the MTA is famous for doing public hearings early in the day when the people who use the system can’t get to them. They never hear from the people. I want to get this information to them, tell them, this is the level of dissatisfaction.”

All that being said, Savino acknowledges being “very impressed with Jay Walder,” the MTA’s relatively new chairperson. However, she went on, “I’m afraid that the people who surround him at the MTA are the same people who go to the same playbook every year. He needs to break away from that, come to us who represent the outer boroughs. We might be able to teach them a thing or two about their transportation system.”

Besides the sense that the MTA always cuts more deeply from services that outer borough residents rely on, another issue rankles with residents who live, as Savino noted, “In the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge,” and that’s the way the toll revenue collected on the bridge is distributed.

While, said Savino, the MTA collects 22 percent of its total toll revenue from drivers using the Verrazano, it then turns around and uses a whopping 70 percent of that money to subsidize the Long Island Railroad and Metro North instead of putting the money back into local services.

“That’s a major bone of contention,” Savino stressed, contending that the MTA needs to be broken down into smaller regional agencies, as it once was, with the New York City Transit Authority separate from the two commuter rail lines, which then would be unable to tap revenue raised in the city.

“Let them subsidize their own service,” Savino declared, “and stop picking the pockets of people in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

“The super agency they created has not worked,” she asserted.