While kids from some of Brooklyn’s lowest income neighborhoods face the prospect of paying to take the subway to school, some of their counterparts from well-to-do areas of Long Island and upstate New York will continue to commute for free.
The MTA confirmed last week that employees of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro North Rail Road, and possibly other agencies get free metro passes for themselves, their spouses and their children.
“Yes, within our system there are cases where employees’ spouses and their dependents receive passes,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. “It is all negotiated through the collective bargaining process.”
Ortiz’s startling admission came after two days of repeated questions from this newspaper, and one week after the MTA announced plans to eliminate free and reduced price public transportation for city kids to and from school.
Under the MTA plan, half of all student discounts will be eliminated in September 2010, and the remaining discounts in September 2011, to help plug their $383 million budget gap.
According to city Department of Education figures, 417,243 students citywide receive full-fare MetroCards and 167,912 receive half-fare MetroCards allowing them to ride on buses to and from school and after school events.
At press time, Ortiz could not answer how many of these spouses and dependents get free rides or if employees of other agencies under MTA jurisdiction get free rides.
This includes employees of Long Island Bus, and Bridges and Tunnels.
MTA board members also get free commuter passes, but Ortiz said it is only to and from official MTA business functions.
New York City Transit employees get free passes, but their spouses and children do not.
Also on the chopping block to patch the budget hole are several service cuts to bus and subway lines in Brooklyn.
This includes the elimination of Z subway service (forcing the J line to run local), and the closing of the Lawrence Street Station overnights in Downtown Brooklyn along the R line.
There will also be reductions in Access-A-Ride service for seniors and disabled, and several bus service routes willbe drastically reduced including the elimination of weekday service on the B23, B25, B37, B39, B51 and B75.
Bus riders will also see an elimination of weekend service on the B7, B14, B31, B45, B48, B57, B64, B65, B67 and B77.
The cuts drew particular condemnation from State Sen. Marty Golden who said the bus cuts will hamper business along Third Avenue in his Bay Ridge district.
Many of these businesses are already paying a new tax, which was supposed to keep the cuts from happening, said Golden.
Golden said the only personnel that should ride the transit system for free are police and transit workers.
When told that some spouses and children of LIRR and Metro North Railroad workers ride for free Golden said, “That’s a perk that should not be there. Not at the cost of city kids and senior citizens.”
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