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LIRRCC Testimony – March 3, 2010 – Atlantic Terminal Closures

Testimony of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council to the
Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
on Proposed Service Reductions
The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

March 3, 2010

Members of the Board, Good Evening. My name is Matthew Kessler. I am a member of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council (LIRRCC), the legislatively mandated representatives of the Long Island Rail Road riders. I am the representative of Brooklyn to the Council on the recommendation of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. LIRRCC Council Members already addressed the service reductions that shall greatly affect LIRR riders of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties in hearings earlier this week. I would like to focus on the tremendous negative impact these cuts will have on Brooklyn.

As you know, Brooklyn is in the midst of a great revival centered around the Downtown area. This area is quickly becoming a true cultural and entertainment center of the City. An important part of this renaissance and rebirth is the new Atlantic Terminal complex. This newly rebuilt station includes a stunning Long Island Rail Road hub that recently reopened to the public just after this past New Year. Now as a part of the reductions being considered here tonight, this beautiful and essential facility is proposed for closure in the overnight hours, starting at midnight.

This closure, if implemented, will be a major blow to this revival. With current service patterns, Brooklyn is a perfect place for Long Islanders to spend an evening, perhaps with dinner and an event at BAM, knowing that they can easily board an LIRR train at Atlantic Terminal to return home. Other affected points of interest are the nearby educational institutions, hospitals and shopping malls. This proposal would force people to choose between watching the clock to be sure that they catch the last train out of Brooklyn for the night. A similar situation ultimately worked out well for Cinderella, but I don’t think that she had to backtrack to Penn Station to find a train home. In all seriousness, though, this move is going to compel people to increasingly choose driving over the train. They may simultaneously and ultimately decide against experiencing what Brooklyn has to offer.

In addition to shutting down the Atlantic Terminal, this proposal hits Brooklyn hard in terms of peak hour service. A total of five trains would be canceled. Although one train is listed as “combined” with a Penn Station train, such action shall affect over two thousand passengers. These are peak hour trains that transport workers to and from jobs. The loss of accessibility from these cuts not only harm Brooklyn, but may inflict increasing irreparable damage to our current economic hardship. Business needs to know that their workers need and will have convenient access to their places of employment and in Downtown Brooklyn that means adequate public transportation.

The savings from the Atlantic Terminal shutdown are less that one half of a million dollars per year. The other cuts that I have outlined save about a one and one half million dollars per year. Two million dollars is a significant sum and the LIRRCC believes that every dollar counts, but it must be understood that these reductions are being proposed in the context where the MTA’s income from taxes on real estate transactions has fallen by $1.2 billion in the last two years, where the Governor’s Deficit Reduction Program eliminated $143 million in State funding, and where shortfalls of $229 million and $400 million in 2009 and 2010 tax receipts dwarf these proposed savings.

The MTA’s financial problems are clearly not a result of operating “too much” service. Although management has obviously sought to impact the least possible number of riders, there is a purpose and demand for each of the trains that is proposed to be eliminated. The financial impact of these cuts are clear: we now need to examine what is being lost in the process, whether the savings generated can justify the impact on riders and on the region as a whole, and what alternatives to these actions exist. We are asking this Board to critically examine this issue along with us. We stand ready to work with you in an honest examination of our options.