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Subway Fare Increases, MetroCard Changes In The Works

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NEW YORK (AP) -- New York's transit agency on Wednesday proposed fare increases of more than 16 percent for monthly subway and bus passes and 9 percent increases on suburban trains, another blow to commuters still getting used to service cuts last month that eliminated some subway and bus routes.

The $2.25 single ride for subways and buses is not expected to change.

The proposals to raise fares on subways, buses and commuter trains are part of an effort by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the nation's largest mass transit system, to close an $800 million budget shortage this year.

The agency presented the proposals at a board meeting. Public hearings will be held in September, and the board will vote on the proposals in October. The changes would take effect in January.

Even with the proposed changes, the agency is expected to have a $1.3 billion deficit over the next four years. The shortfall is projected to reach $2.5 billion without them.

The MTA also is considering putting a limit on its now-unlimited monthly passes. The passes would jump from $89 to at least $99 with a 90-ride limit or a $104 unlimited pass. About a third of commuters use monthly passes.

Weekly passes would increase in price and could be limited to 22 rides. And all riders would have to reuse their old passes or pay a $1 fee for new ones to try to prevent passengers from discarding them on the floor and to decrease the cost of printing new ones.

MTA officials say the ride limit would not affect most commuters because only 7 percent use their monthly passes more than 90 times; the average person uses it fewer than 60 times.

Transit advocate Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said he opposes a fare increase, noting some subway and bus routes were slashed in June, while remaining services were rerouted and reduced.

"It's wrong to be asking the riders to pay more for less when we just got socked with the worst subway and bus cuts in memory," he said.

Russianoff said the state should increase its funding of the transit agency.

"The MTA is not the villain - they're making a serious effort here to cut their expenses," he said, "but the victims here are the riders."

Carol Woods, a bookkeeper from Malverne, N.Y., said she already spends nearly $300 a month on passes for the Long Island Rail Road and subway.

"It's a lot out of your salary, but what can you do?" said Woods, 53. "There's no point in arguing it. I'll just have to pay it."

MTA officials say the agency can no longer afford to pay for buses on Long Island. They said it's Nassau County's responsibility to pay for the 48 bus routes, which the MTA has been paying for since 2000. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has proposed privatizing bus service if a deal cannot be reached.

"The MTA continues to blame its financial woes on everyone but itself," Mangano said in an e-mail. "Despite balancing its books just a year ago with monies from the job-killing payroll tax, the MTA's dysfunction continues to cost Long Island families and seniors through service cuts."

The agency also will increase tolls on bridges and tunnels around the city. It already has announced plans for additional fare increases in 2013.