After years of threatening service cuts on the G train, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is once again angering riders and advocates, who believe the agency is exploiting a funding emergency to justify bisecting the G’s route.
“Every year, it seems, they try to come up with yet another reason for doing it,” said Teresa Toro, co-founder of Save the G, a coalition of community groups dedicated to the line. “So it becomes hard to believe any one reason. They would just really love to do it and have not really justified their case.”
“Now they’ve got the financial crisis as cover to get rid of it,” echoed James Trent, the treasurer of the Queens Civic Congress, an organization that represents over 100 community groups in the borough.
On Nov. 18, the M.T.A. outlined a massive budget cut proposal that would permanently terminate the G at Court House Square in Long Island City, Queens. The agency first proposed shortening the line in 2001, but preserved evening, night and weekend service to 71st Avenue-Forest Hills due to community pressure.
This time, however, the crisis is extreme: funding sources, such as real estate taxes and city and state support, are on the decline, while fuel charges and the cost of debt service are rising. At a transportation town hall meeting at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center in Williamsburg on Monday, Andrew Inglesby, New York City Transit’s assistant director of government and community relations, spelled out the challenges the agency confronts:
“It’s a tough number that we had to get to,” he said, referring to the M.T.A.’s obligation to balance its budget. “No matter what you do you’re going to get grief from one neighborhood or another. And we really feel like we spread the bad news for everyone.”
That bad news includes eliminating the W and Z lines entirely, raising the base fare to $2.50, and stretching late night train waits from 20 minutes to half an hour.
Acknowledging the breadth of the current crisis, activists and elected officials perceived G service as crucial to the health of Brooklyn and Queens.
“Anytime you’re cutting the G,” said Jake Maguire, a spokesman for Councilman David Yassky of Brooklyn, “you’re stunting the development of the communities along the G corridor, which is really significant. So I think that has a serious impact for the city.”
“This hurts Queens business,” Mr. Trent of the Civic Congress said. “I don’t know how much it hurts travelers. But it certainly makes it more difficult for Brooklyn shoppers to come to Rego Park.”
G riders also registered their concern over the service reductions, pointing out that Astoria will face the loss of two trains, the G and the W.
“We were paying more for our fare and we still don’t have the service that they say we’re going to get,” said Epifanio Canongo, a maintenance worker who commutes to Manhattan from Myrtle Willoughby Avenue in Brooklyn. “We’re still waiting a lot of hours and a lot of minutes for the trains, and we still have the same problem over and over again. It’s just not fair.”
The proposed cuts to the G would save the M.T.A. $1.9 million per year, according to Mr. Inglesby. He noted that the G has only run its full route on eight of the past 52 weekends. (Budget reductions would not affect the planned extension of the line to Church Avenue in Brooklyn once construction on the Culver Line viaduct is complete.)
“A lot of people who now take one trip may have to take two. That’s what it is,” said Hilary Ring, the M.T.A.’s director of government affairs, at the Monday meeting. He indicated a PowerPoint presentation that juxtaposed photographs of subway cars from the 1970s and today. “It’s either that or we let the system slide back into disrepair. Because we need money to make sure the system is maintained.”
Since 2001, G advocates have held public hearings, staged rallies, and lobbied elected officials to improve service on their beleaguered line. Currently, Save the G is anticipating the findings of the Ravitch Commission, which will release its recommendations on public transit funding in early December, before pursuing more organized action. Ms. Toro thinks the movement could inspire others, and is hoping something like a “Save the W” group will form.
“People need to do more than complain to each other,” she said. “They really need to speak up. It does matter. Their elected officials are listening. They need to speak up and organize.”