Unfare! MTA rejects better service

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority played straphangers for the fool, canceling $30 million in subway and bus improvements that were promised in the wake of the fare increase — an abrupt turnaround from promises made by the agency just this month.

The announcement not only comes as a blow to riders, but may affect coming votes in the City Council and in Albany on the mayor’s congestion pricing plan — a scheme that would charge drivers to enter parts of Manhattan to create a pool of money that the MTA could supposedly use for future projects.

Some congestion pricing supporters saw the MTA’s latest broken promise as evidence that the agency needs the cash that the mayor’s $8 fee might provide. Others saw only more evidence that the MTA can’t be trusted with cash.

Of immediate concern are the sudden cancelations of crowd-pleasers like more frequent trains on the G line and a direct bus link from Red Hook to Manhattan via the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel. The MTA says it can’t make the improvements because it doesn’t have the money, despite a fare hike that kicked in on March 2.

One day later, MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander had said the service enhancements would go forward.

“Our 2008 revenues … are in line with our budget projections,” Sander said. “As a result, I will recommend … that we move ahead with the service enhancements.”

That was then. So here’s a list of improvements that now won’t be coming to your neighborhood:

• Increasing the number of G trains running weekdays and weekends between Smith–Ninth street and Court Square.

• Linking Red Hook to Manhattan by extending the B71 and B77 bus routes through the Battery Tunnel.

• B express service to Coney Island until 11 pm on weeknights.

• Extending the B67 bus to Fulton Ferry in DUMBO.

• Establishing a B62 bus that would run through Williamsburg and Greenpoint to Midtown Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge.

The broken promise comes just after fare hikes raised the price of a monthly subway and bus pass from $76 to $81 — and the sequence of events horrified local politicians.

“In light of the recent fare hikes, I am disappointed to learn that the MTA is failing to hold up its end of the bargain with New Yorkers,” said Councilmember David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights).

Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens), who only a few months ago was touting the new Red Hook–Manhattan bus as a trade-off for stomaching the fare hike, was also “deeply disappointed,” said her chief of staff, Paul Nelson. “They raised fares and promised new services,” Nelson said, “yet they did not deliver the latter.”