With No Plan for Transit, the Next Fare Hike Is Just Around the Bend

If state legislators don’t act to undo the outcome of today’s MTA Board meeting, it would mark the second straight year that fares have gone up, which is already a departure from the norm. And it’s going to get worse, say Gene Russianoff and the Straphangers Campaign:

Without new financial help from Albany soon, the MTA says its current bad finances may mean another fare hike in 2010.

That would make it three years in a row for fare increases — March 2008, June 2009 and early 2010 — the worst record in the MTA’s 40-plus year history.

It demonstrates a trend of shifting the costs of operating transit from some beneficiaries of the subways and buses — such as motorists and businesses — onto riders.  For example, the riders’ share of operating costs for the subways will go from 69% to an astonishing 84%, according to the MTA, if the just-approved fare increases are implemented.

Under the plan proposed by former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch, no new fare hike would occur before 2011.

Meanwhile, the excuses for inaction are pouring in. GOP State Senator Marty Golden, a Brooklyn rep who never broke ranks to support the Ravitch plan, sent around a press release blaming the state’s top Democrats for "closing the doors completely to Republicans." Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos excused his party’s monolithic opposition to the transit rescue effort in much the same way, and added that the MTA was asking for a "blank check" by seeking to fund its five-year capital program. As Liz Benjamin notes, that’s exactly what the Fare Hike Four and Senate Dems have been saying.

It’s a patently false claim. Any plan is subject to oversight and approval by the Capital Program Review Board. The leaders of the State Senate and the Assembly each appoint one voting member to the CPRB, as do the mayor and the governor. Any of the four voting members can veto the whole thing. Said Russianoff: "If they appropriated the money, they would still have power over how it’s spent."

  • No one likes fare hikes, but to focus on where the real damage will be done, you have to look at the service cuts.

  • As noted before, there may be a small silver lining. Come July, when its hot and sticky outside and even worse in the subway tubes and on crowded buses, many New Yorkers may find some solace in the fairly robust network of bicycle infrastructure. Many US cities would not be so lucky in the face of fare hikes and service cuts. Thus, now is the time to lobby even more for bicycle accommodation and for sidewalk improvements–something desperately needed throughout much of Gotham.

  • I don’t understand why the MTA doesn’t play hardball back by, say, threatening to make 100% service cuts to the districts of the fare hike four.

  • Omri

    Why not go all the way with this brinksmanship and have the city close a bridge on the grounds of lacking funds for its upkeep?

  • I like Omri’s idea. Close the Brooklyn Bridge to all motor vehicle traffic.

  • Yeah the city should just say we have run out of $$$$ for the upkeep of the East River Bridges and force drivers to use the paid crossings. Boy that would get people’s attention.

  • TOM

    Albany CDTA buses are going up to $1.50 from $1.00. At least NYC is not alone.

  • Ian Turner

    Greg, who do you think selects the MTA leadership? (Hint: The same state government politicians that love to berate the MTA for its bad leadership)

  • Moser

    Pay attention guys – the Brooklyn Bridge and other city-owned infrastructure has nothing to do with the MTA budget, except that the big bridges would have been leased to the MTA for tolling under the Ravitch plan.

  • Omri

    Okay, fine. City passes a budget resolution with a subsidy payment to the MTA, equal to the Brooklyn Bridge maintenance budget, closes the bridge, and we see what happens next.

  • I just saw on the news, Kruger comparing the MTA head to Bernie Madoff. This is the level of discourse our “leaders” are giving us.

    It bears repeating that since politicians as a rule wouldn’t be caught dead on a transit vehicle, we should not be surprised at their contempt for the rest of us, but this is just ridiculous.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Kruger comparing the MTA head to Bernie Madoff. This is the level of discourse our “leaders” are giving us.”

    The MTA head was appointed by a Democratic politician. The former MTA heads were appointed by Republican politicians. I forget which one Kruger is — among Albany incumbents they are all alike. But I’m neither, and among other things this is why.

  • uSkyscraper

    Very sad, but this step by the MTA may spur some action from the silent majority that will nudge the kneejerk politicians back to the side of better funding for the MTA.

  • Aaron Berkman

    The MTA can easily cut out the LIRR to Gran Central Station program which will cost US 15.2 billion dollars, and then use that money for its operations, and debt service. The choices being presented to the City are false. We don’t have to choose between Tolls or service cuts and fare hikes. We can just spend less on massive additional projects that the system doesn’t need.

    Instead of the Grand Central LIRR program, we can save the 15.2 billion dollars, maintain service and give LIRR riders free transfers at Atlantic Avenue to the subway, while retaining the Pen station subway fare. Trains on the IRT can start at Atlantic Avenue which has the subway capacity. That will encourage riders to use the under utilized Brooklyn LIRR Terminal ending any need for an LIRR extension and providing full service for everyone. Simple enough? Not if you work for Bloomberg and want to use the MTA as a wedge to get tolls on the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • Moser

    Aaron, it’s not that simple. There is a difference between capital and operating budgets, though they are related. The federal money for LIRR-GCT, for instance, can’t be used to run trains and buses. It’s the law. That’s also true on money already borrowed to build that project. The loans are for a specific purpose.

  • Funny, HappyDog, that’s almost the same thing you posted earlier today. Also funny how you remember the “two sets of books” in 2003, but not the subsequent comptroller audits that have confirmed that they are no longer doing this.

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