Today’s news:

Massive bus cuts hit straphangers hard

The community is bracing for cuts to bus lines that will add minutes to the commutes of thousands of straphangers after Sunday, June 27.

One of the few bright spots in the service reductions is that free and reduced fare student MetroCards have been saved.

The cuts will affect bus lines in Wakefield, Woodlawn, Norwood, Morris Heights, University Heights, Co-op City, Melrose and Hunts Point.

Some bus lines like the Bx18, serving Morris Heights, will be eliminated all together. Others like the Bx34 serving Woodlawn and Norwood will see curtailment of weekend and evening service.

However, in last minute negotiations, student Metrocards were saved. The program had been slated by the MTA to end this school year. At the Bronx’s public hearing on the service reductions in January, student groups including Sistas and Brothas United testified that elimination of free and reduced priced student MetroCards would limit their ability to attend schools not close to home. Borough President Diaz, who lobbied at the hearing before the MTA board in favor of keeping student fares, was pleased when the decision was made on Friday, June 18.

“I’m thrilled that the MTA’s executives have come to their collective senses to do what is right, reversing their plans to eliminate free student MetroCards,” Diaz said. “The idea of fixing the MTA’s budget gap by putting at risk the education of thousands of our public school students was simply outrageous. We are aware of the serious financial crisis the MTA is facing, but the future of our children should always prevail over monetary woes. I am glad that the MTA has reversed its decision.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who heads up the City Council’s Transportation Committee, also voiced his jubilation about the continuation of student fares. The program has been in existence in one form or another since 1948.

“As chair of the transportation committee, I took a big lead on this,” Vacca said. “I have to give a lot of credit to the students and their parents who signed postcards and wrote letters opposing cuts to student MetroCards. The students who participated in these demonstrations got a lesson in history, and they also gave a lesson in history.”

The student MetroCards are a victory in what otherwise is a heavy round of cuts to borough bus service. In Co-op City, the rerouting of the Bx26, Bx28, and Bx30 busses will make it all but impossible to reach the subway without making a transfer.

In Wakefield, Bx 41 service on White Plains Road north of East Gun Hill Road will be replaced by an extension of the Bx 39.

In Woodlawn, the discontinuing of weekend and evening service on the Bx34 will pose a real hardship to many who work in industries that operate around the clock.

“The community is furious about it; the MTA is assuming that everyone has a car,” said Community Board 12 chairman Father Richard Gorman. “You have people in Woodlawn who are in service industries like the food industry, cleaning office space, and taking care of folks. They have no way to get around at night and on weekends.”

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com.

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