Straphangers gave their testimony at the MTA’s public hearing held at the Fashion Institute of Technology last night. District 1 City Councilmember Margaret Chin was there to vocalize concerns specific to the Lower East Side and Chinatown.
Since subway lines are sparse throughout the neighborhood, she argued, residents rely on buses as their main form of transportation. Chin demanded that the MTA reverse its proposal to end weekend and overnight service for the M22 bus line, which runs from the Lower East Side to Battery Park City via Chambers Street. Community Board 3 stands behind her, having passed a resolution at its most recent full board meeting to preserve the line’s full service.
“If you cut the M22 on the weekend, how do people do their shopping? How do they visit their doctors? It doesn’t make sense,” she asked.
As well as maintaining full service for the M22, Chin demanded that plans to reduce operating hours for the M20 and to reroute the M9 be reversed. These lines are among the few cross-town routes in Lower Manhattan—and, as Chin asserted, they “service the growing neighborhood.”
But the hot-button item of the evening was the proposal to discontinue free student MetroCards. Students rallied outside Haft Auditorium, where the hearing was held. They chanted, “No transportation, no education” as they shook their green glow sticks in solidarity. The Transit Workers Union built a temporary podium from which speakers’ voices boomed out of loudspeakers, exclaiming “Give it up for the students.” Police struggled to keep rush hour pedestrian traffic flowing on Seventh Avenue.
Once inside, students shared their testimony, saying that paying for a Metrocard, along with schoolbooks and uniforms, would be another burden on already cash-strapped families. One student, Prisila Ruiz, fought back tears as she said, “These are people who live paycheck to paycheck, who can’t afford to send their kids to school.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio also addressed the MTA board, but shared his allotted three-minute slot with a student, whom he had read a prtion of his testimony. De Blasio said he believes public education includes free transportation and, for this reason, the plan should be halted.
Councilmember Chin, a former teacher, offered a solution: “I think the City will have to pay its share. I will make sure that we pay our share,” she said.
The board will vote on whether to formally approve the service changes on March 24. If approved, the first cuts would take effect in June.