2 subway lines to make their final runs amid NY transit agency budget woes, commuters dismayed

NEW YORK (AP) — It's the end of the line for some commuters using the country's largest public transportation system as New York City's transit agency grapples with an $800 million budget gap by cutting bus and subway service.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is slashing service lines this weekend, rerouting and reducing remaining services and adding frustration to the lives of millions of travelers.

The train that advertising agency worker Danielle Dorter takes to her job in Manhattan is being rerouted, forcing her to find another way to commute.

"What am I going to do, walk from Brooklyn to my office?" she asked.

Three disabled women sued Friday in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, claiming the MTA cuts would limit their mobility. There are no handicapped-accessible subway stations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, where they live, attorney Sal Strazzullo said at a news conference.

"They do not have the ability to get to places in the city if the MTA goes through with these cuts," Strazzullo said.

The suit asks that the cuts be suspended while the case progresses. Two of the women are in wheelchairs, and one woman uses a cane.

The MTA's cuts reach across the city. Two subway lines that run between Manhattan and Queens, the V and W, were scheduled to make their final runs Friday night. By Monday morning, the M line will be rerouted to cover some of the V stations in lower Manhattan.

Subways will run less often, especially at night and on the weekend. Three million people are expected to have to wait for trains for up to two extra minutes, saving the MTA more than $8 million. Service on the G line, from Brooklyn to Queens, will be shortened, which the MTA says will save $1.5 million.

The city's bus lines also are taking a hit, with 37 of 244 routes eliminated and others facing service reductions at night and on weekends. Train and bus service also has been reduced in New York's suburbs.

The agency says the cuts will save $93 million, with the two subway line cuts saving $7.4 million annually. In recent weeks, signs of the impending change became more noticeable — blacked-out symbols for the soon-to-be-cut lines at subway entrances, and the symbol for the M train changing from brown to orange, the color of the V line.

Posters and brochures have gone up at subway and bus stops to warn commuters of the cuts, but some were still unaware. Told about the changes, they were resigned.

"I haven't heard, but it doesn't surprise me," said Juan Recaman, a freelance editor from Manhattan, as he rode a W train this week.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder said the agency is doing its best to make the change as smoothly as possible.

"Some amount of confusion is probably inevitable to come, but I think we're working hard to try to minimize it," he said.

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who represents Queens, blamed the cuts on poor management by the MTA and less money being provided to the agency by the state government in Albany.

"We now face longer commutes, more crowded commutes and more transfers," he said. "All because the MTA is unable to run a business and because Albany took away funding from the MTA."

The cuts to the bus routes Sunday will affect more than just the commuters — hundreds of bus operators and mechanics will be fired.

Transport Workers Union President John Samuelson said he would not accept the MTA's latest offer, which would save those jobs and possibly rehire employees already laid off, because there was no promise that there wouldn't be layoffs in the future.

The MTA also is trying to reduce overtime costs and to offer buyouts or lay off administrative workers.

The agency is scheduled to release an updated budget for 2010 and its budget for 2011 in July. The agency had originally said it would raise fares in 2011 by 7.5 percent, but that figure may change. The current one-way bus or subway fare is $2.25.

The MTA's deficit grew this month when it agreed to continue to offer free student MetroCard transit passes, even though the agency didn't receive enough money from the state to cover the program's costs.

The MTA's board in December approved an $11 billion budget that included plans to cut service and leave children without MetroCards for free and discounted rides to public schools. Residents complained at public hearings, and about 1,000 high school students marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in protest.