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Vol. 74/No. 11      March 22, 2010

Students and workers
protest N.Y. transit cuts
NEW YORK—Hundreds of students and workers packed hearings in New York City’s five boroughs to oppose cuts in bus and subway service and the elimination of free passes for students. The Transport Workers Union held a rally outside the Manhattan hearing March 4 to oppose the measures.

At the Manhattan hearing small groups of high school students from around the city joined the line of people waiting to enter and chanted against the cuts on their way in.

“Our education is important to us and we really care about it,” Shakeisha Cush, 16, told the Militant. “I have to ride the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan to get to school. The free MetroCard is necessary and I will fight for it.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which runs New York City’s subways, buses, and trains, distributed a 120-page booklet detailing the “service reductions.” The MTA claims the cuts are needed to reduce a budget deficit of $383 million this year and another $297 million projected in 2011.

The transit agency proposals include eliminating or reducing service on dozens of bus lines, reducing train and bus service at night and on weekends, cutting back on van services for the disabled, and rapidly phasing out free passes for high school, middle school, and elementary school students.

The MTA said it would lay off 450 station agents. This is on top of the “reassignment” of 300 station agents last year. Transit officials said that agents who retired would not be replaced, further cutting the workforce through attrition.

It was standing room only in the 800-seat auditorium during the Manhattan hearing on the cuts.

“You don’t see the faces of the people who will be affected by the cuts, who live paycheck to paycheck,” Priscila Ruiz, 16, a student at Aquinas High School in the Bronx, told MTA officials who listened impassively to her comments as the crowd cheered. “What about the people who work late shifts, how are they supposed to get home? You don’t think about their faces, all you see is money.”

Several disabled riders took the floor and opposed the changes in “Access-a-Ride,” a door-to-door van service. The MTA proposes providing the service to and from bus and subway stops instead. “Access-a-Ride is our lifeline,” Bee Simpson told the Bronx MTA hearing.

While the MTA chiefs plan reductions in transport services working people need the most, cutting payments to wealthy bondholders is off the table. The MTA board of directors considers payments on the agency’s $26.8 billion debt a “fixed cost.” In 2010 they project paying out a whopping $1.9 billion for interest and principal on the debt, five times more than the current budget deficit.

But the agency tops and capitalist rulers in New York are quick to blame transit workers for service cuts. The MTA attempted to block previously agreed upon wage hikes, saying the increases would widen the budget deficit.

“The cuts affect all of us,” track worker Adjul Jalil said in an interview at the Transport Workers Union protest rally in Manhattan. “The union should fight this with any means at its disposal.”

Brian Williams contributed to this article
Related articles:
Calif. protesters say: Stop education cuts!
Thousands rally against school layoffs
Scotland protest opposes school cutbacks
‘We can’t be passive’ about attacks on public education
Seattle students march against tuition hikes
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