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MTA CEO: Fare increases likely

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 10/25/2012, 12:38 p.m.
The MTA is likely to raise fares taking effect early next year, according to transit...
MTA

The MTA is likely to raise fares taking effect early next year, according to transit head Joe Lhota. Proposals put forth recently by the MTA that would raise subway and bus fare by at least 25 cents are not set in stone yet. Several upcoming public hearings are scheduled for people to speak out against the possible increase.

Last week, the MTA laid out four proposals that would increase fares for straphangers. One proposal has the single-ride subway fare going up to as much as $2.75 while another has monthly unlimited MetroCards going up as high as $125.

The possible increase is being blamed on costs the MTA says it can't control, including debt service, pensions, energy and health care for its employees. Approximately $277 million will be generated by the increase. The MTA board will decide on the fare hike in December. If they pass, new fares will take effect in March 2013.

However, Lhota, who serves as CEO and chairman of the MTA, said fares are likely to go up and that most New Yorkers don't use single rides and prefer weekly and monthly unlimited cards. Appearing on "The John Gambling Show" on WOR, Lhota said it's the middle class he's worried about.

"I'm concerned about the middle class in the city and the folks who commute within the boroughs and those coming in and out of Manhattan. We need to try to keep the raises to a minimum," Lhota said.

He also pointed out that transit fares in other cities are already higher than in New York City, adding that, "If you go to London, you'll pay a lot more on their underground than you will on the New York City Subway."

New York City has one the costliest fares for a single ride in America. A single ride on London's Underground transit system converts to over $7.

Commuters are already voicing their outrage over the fare increase even before the public hearings scheduled to begin next month. A number of grassroots community groups have formed a coalition called "Transit Forward." The group has started a petition against the fare hikes.

Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the organization UPROSE, said low-income New Yorkers will be hit hardest by the fare increases.

"For our communities, it is a livability issue, and everything must be done to ensure that we do not prevent our communities from getting to work, to school, to medical facilities or much-needed social services," she said.

NYC Parents Union President Mona Davis agrees and said the fare increases would affect students. She questions why an "MTA bailout" is being paid by straphangers.

Said Davis, "The MTA must renegotiate their interest rate bank swaps before imposing another fare hike on New Yorkers. Why must we pay increased fares to subsidize the banks that we bailed out? We want services restored that were cut in 2010, bus passes restored for schools to take students on educational trips and bus partitions to protect bus drivers who transport our children."