Can the MTA stay on track in 2012?

The new chair of the MTA, Joe Lhota, said he won’t cut service or raise fares this year. Riders hope it’s a promise he can keep.

You’re not the only one making ambitious New Year’s resolutions: The new head of the MTA has some lofty goals, too.

Joe Lhota, who will officially take the helm of the cash-strapped agency this year, promised he won’t cut any service during his tenure, or raise fares this year.

But while he’s making promises, the MTA’s financial health remains fragile.

“Even under the best of circumstances, the budget will be tight,” said Bill Henderson, director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, an agency watchdog.

The MTA’s $12.6 billion projected 2012 budget is conditional on negotiations with the MTA’s unionized workers, who aren’t shy about vocalizing displeasure with a proposed three-year wage freeze.

To help close budget gaps, there are three planned fare hikes coming in 2013, 2015 and 2017, according to projected financial plans.

But 2012 does hold a few bits of good news for riders.

“Long-suffering bus riders will soon be able to use your cell or smartphone to tell how far your bus is from your stop in real time,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphanger’s Campaign.

Also, Russianoff speculated the MTA may plan to bring back the popular “Poetry in Motion” ads that dotted subway trains, although the MTA wouldn’t confirm it.

“You may get stuck in a subway tunnel, but it will be your chance to catch up on Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson,” Russianoff said.

Service cuts not restored

As the new year dawns, some MTA board members will likely not give up their fight to push the agency to restore massive service cuts enacted in 2009.

After several board members fought to allocate $20 million this year for service restoration, they lost by a 6-to-4 vote at the last meeting. Board member Allen Cappelli, who led the charge, will continue to push the issue this year, said Gene Russianoff of the Straphanger’s Campaign. He added, “They’re not letting go of this.” —Cassandra Garrison/Metro

Follow New York local reporter Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyatMetro.



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