MTA To Hike Fares For Riders
By ROSS BARKAN
The MTA has issued proposals to hike fares for City straphangers. Tribune Photos by Ira Cohen.
For some in Queens, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s latest fare hike proposal is off the rails.
MTA chairman Joseph Lhota unveiled four proposals this week for fare and toll hikes that could raise the base subway and bus fare from $2.25 to $2.50. Other proposals call for the base fare to remain the same, while asking straphangers to pour money into the MTA in other ways, like paying more for a monthly MetroCard. Long Island Rail Road fares could also jump 9 percent.
“Costs that the MTA does not exercise control over, namely those for debt service, pensions, energy, paratransit, and employee and retiree health care, continue to increase beyond the rate of inflation,” Lhota said.
Indeed, a recent audit of the MTA by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that the MTA’s increased pension and healthcare costs are a burden on the authority’s finances, though the possible repeal of a payroll mobility tax that generates $1.5 billion annually in revenue could also a pose fiscal threat. DiNapoli said the MTA relied on borrowed money to pay for projects and has not identified sources of funding for future capital programs.
If any of the four proposals were implemented, they would be able to raise $230 million for the MTA, Lhota said. When the MTA board approves one of the proposals, the hikes will go into effect in March 2013. Public hearings are scheduled for the proposals in November.
In one proposal, bus and subway patrons monthly unlimited MetroCards would cost up to $125, an increase of $21. The price of unlimited weekly MetroCards would increase $5 to $34. The $2.25 fare for single bus and subway rides would remain unchanged, but the 7 percent advance purchase bonus would drop to 5 percent.
A second proposal would increase the base fare to $2.50 but lower increases for weekly and monthly unlimited MetroCards, from $29 to $30 and $104 to $112, respectively. The bonus would remain the same.
A third proposal calls for the $0.25 base fare increase, a rise of $5 for monthly unlimited MetroCards, no change in weekly unlimited fares and no change in the 7 percent bonus.
The final proposal would keep the current base fare, eliminating the bonus entirely and increasing the weekly and monthly unlimited MetroCards to $32 and $119, respectively. Under all proposals, a $1 surcharge for purchasing a new MetroCard, designed to encourage straphangers to refill their existing cards and reduce MetroCard production costs, would be implemented.
Transportation Alternatives, a public transit advocacy group, called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop the impending fare hikes by using more public money to shore up the MTA’s finances. It does not appear Cuomo will listen to them.
Queens subway and bus riders were distressed to learn they would be digging deeper into their pockets. A Queens College student who did not want to be identified said he already pays $9 a day to commute and does not know how much more he can spend.
“Heck yeah, these hikes are going to hurt,” said Lillian Jones as she waited for a bus on Main Street in Flushing. “I’m a senior citizen, so I assume they’re raising everyone else’s fares, they’re raising mine too.”
Reach Reporter Ross Barkan at email@example.com or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127.