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Brooklyn parents were up in arms after the MTA’s passage of their 2010 budget Thursday that included the elimination of 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. They did not have a borough by borough breakdown of these numbers.
“I’m appalled by this idea,” said Park Slope mom Martha Foote. “It will completely segregate and discriminate against poor kids whose families will be unable to send them to schools outside of their neighborhood. The middle school and high school systems are set up on choice, the idea of picking schools outside of their neighborhood. That won’t be an option for kids who won’t be able to afford this.”
Mario Aguila, president of School District 14’s Community Education Council (CEC), representing Williamsburg and Greenpoint, noted that some families have two or three kids in school.
“What is that going to cost them a month?” he said. “It’s going to be impossible for many people.”
MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan put the blame for eliminating free and reduced public transportation passes for students firmly on the city and state.
“Nowhere else in the United States is the public transportation system responsible for the costs of transporting students to school. In other municipalities throughout the country the local government will provide that transportation free of charge, and in most cases, provide a fleet of yellow buses,” said Donovan.
Currently, with a few exceptions, the DOE provides yellow buses to students through the sixth grade.
Donovan pointed out that prior to the early 1990s, the city and state provided 100 percent of the funding for this service.
A 1995 agreement split the cost equally ($45 million each at the time) between the city, state and MTA, but the MTA has paid an increasing amount over time and the state reduced its reimbursement this year to $6 million, said Donovan.
Donovan said the elimination of the subsidized public transportation for students will save the MTA $31 million in 2010, $62 million in 2011 and $170 million every year after that.
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.
Several bus service routes will also be 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.
Borough President Marty Markowitz suggested other measures to close the budget gap, including more fees on motorist registrations and a gas tax along with a consolidation of MTA holdings and lease properties, such as 370 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn.
He also suggested a restoration of the commuter tax for city workers who live outside the city.
“I remain hopeful that Governor Paterson, the legislature and the MTA will find ways to restore student discounts and identify funding solutions that will reduce the severity of service cutbacks while ensuring that everyone who uses the public transportation system contributes to its short-term and long-term sustainability,” Markowitz said.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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