New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to expand Metro-North train service by the most in its history to accommodate growing weekend demand, as the agency restores systemwide cuts made in 2010 during a fiscal crunch.
Metro-North will add 230 trains a week -- 220 east of the Hudson River and 10 west of it -- in the largest expansion since the railroad’s inception in 1983. Most of the new service will be on weekends and in off-peak hours to meet growing non-commuter ridership. Additions begin in October, the agency said.
“Increased overall ridership revenues combined with cost savings are enabling us to make new investments to meet our customers’ needs and to support the economic vitality of the New York metropolitan area,” MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said today in a briefing with reporters. He pegged the expansion’s cost at $29.5 million annually.
Service restorations and additions to almost 40 rail, subway and bus lines precede planned fare and toll increases that will be part of the 2013 budget officials unveil next week. A recommendation that those increases take effect March 1, instead of two months earlier, will be included in the spending plan, Lhota said.
The agency’s financial position remains “fragile” -- though not as precarious as last year -- and total subway ridership is at a 60-year high, with the system carrying 1.64 billion passengers last year, Lhota said. Still, the fare and toll increases, which the agency expects to bring in $450 million annually, are necessary because of growth in pension, health-care and debt-service costs, Lhota said.
“These discretionary costs are actually the source of the instability in our financial plan,” Lhota told reporters. “They’re the root cause of why I say our financial plan is fragile. And bear in mind the financial plan still includes three years of net zeros in labor savings.”
The Long Island Rail Road will provide increased service during off-peak periods on the Ronkonkoma Branch and the addition of rush-hour trains on the Montauk, Long Beach and Port Jefferson branches, among other changes. The G subway line’s temporary extension will be made permanent, and some bus service will be restored and added.
The agency reduced service and cut lines in June 2010 as it faced a $900 million deficit. The cuts, which saved almost $68 million annually and helped stabilize the agency’s finances, angered riders and advocates for the poor and disabled. The following year, fares and tolls rose 7.5 percent.
The MTA, which carries 8.5 million riders daily on the New York City subway and bus system and Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter rail lines, passed a $12.7 billion budget in December. According to its February financial plan, the agency projects a $1 million cash balance for 2012 and an $80 million cash balance for 2013, which will be used to reduce deficits of as much as $204 million in 2014 and 2015.