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The budget recently passed by the MTA board calls for rate hikes next year and in 2025, and not 2024 as an earlier version of this story had it.
TWU Local 100 officials sharply criticized what the MTA has described as “service adjustments” to several subway lines planned for next year.
The suggested changes would add wait times from three to 30 seconds on the 1, 6, 7, E, F, L and Q lines outside of commuting hours on Mondays and Fridays. The tweaks, set to go into effect in June, “reflect soft ridership” on those days, the president of New York City Transit, Richard Davey, said at the authority’s Dec. 21 board meeting.
Davey and MTA Chair Janno Lieber said the modifications will affect just 0.2 percent of service, with Lieber adding that they would not be subject to public hearings since the standard to put the matter to the public is 25 percent.
But Richard Davis, the newly installed president of TWU Local 100, told the board that the changes, which he and other union officials called “cuts,” were “a terrible, terrible idea.” Davis, elected by the Local 100 board to succeed Tony Utano earlier this month, told the board that the union “will fight you every step of the way.”
While Davis acknowledged that ridership was lower on Mondays and Fridays, he attributed that in part — as did Davey and Lieber — to higher-income commuters “staying in the suburbs” rather than commuting to their city offices.
“But a lot of people are still coming to work,” Davis said, citing nurses, grocery store workers, cooks, cleaners, home-care workers and “those who fill prescriptions, prepare meals, stock shelves — the working class, frontline essential workers, many of whom are immigrants and people of color.”
Changed commuting patterns
Lieber disputed that the changes amounted to “cuts,” as the union has it. “The nomenclature matters,” he said. “What we’re doing is really service adjustments.”
He said the changes amounted to “really marginal adjustments to service at the late end of the peak.” What he called “the blue-collar peak” early Mondays and Fridays would remain “unchanged.”
The late end is being adjusted, Lieber said, with the modifications reflecting the changed nature of commuting patterns. “We have not the old, five-day weekday period workweek.… We have really a three-day, intense workweek Tuesday through Friday, and kind of a hybrid Monday, Friday before you go to the weekend.”
He added that the MTA was increasing bus service in the Bronx, Queens and in Brooklyn and subway service on the weekends. “We’re adding service all over the map,” he said. Davis, though, said that while ridership is down in most Manhattan stations, it is higher in the outer boroughs, at between 70 and 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels in dozens of stations in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, including those on the 6 line in the Bronx and the 7 line in Queens.
“The executives in the corner office that gets to stay at home, the person who cleans that office gets to stand on the platform longer on the way to work. That platform and that train, meanwhile, will be crowded,” Davis said.
The union believes “these service cuts are just the start,” he said. “If MTA management gets away with them without holding public hearings and then more dramatic, painful service cuts will follow.”
Davey, though, said the modifications reflected a “nibbling on the edges of service.”
“Candidly,” he added, “if we weren’t talking about it, I’m not sure anybody would notice it, but obviously we want to be transparent about the changes we’re making.”
But Davis, sounding a more ominous note, said that slower service could lead to more violence on his members. “I have no doubt service cuts will lead to rider frustration and will lead to more assaults on transit workers and we are fed up,” he said.
The new union leader said the local will steadfastly oppose any service reductions. “We will fight and not stop until the end,” he said, speaking over several calls that his remarks had exceeded public-speaking time limits. “Do not mistake my demeanor today as weakness.”
He was cheered by attendees to the meeting, some holding signs reading, “TWU says no service cuts.”
In response to later questions from the media, Lieber said the authority had zero tolerance for violence done to its employees. “We‘ll make no apology for our position on worker assaults, which is that they’re unacceptable.”
He cited the authority’s successful push to have people convicted of assault on MTA property banned from using its transit system. “We’re going to stand by our workers,” he said, noting that he personally followed up with workers hurt on the job, including three conductors who were punched last week “for no reason at all from some lunatic.”
The MTA is contending with severe financial pressures, largely attributable to a Covid-related decrease in ridership, which Lieber has on several occasions called a “crisis.” Those were reflected in an austerity budget passed by the board, also Dec. 21. It calls for rate hikes next year and in 2025.
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