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MTA fare hikes still coming, but they might be smaller

Straphangers may get some financial relief from the MTA in reduced fare hikes.

mta fare hike Straphangers may get some financial relief from the MTA in reduced fare hikes.
Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Straphangers may get some financial relief from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the form of reduced fare hikes.

As recently as July, the MTA planned to increase fare revenue by 7.5 percent in both 2015 and 2017. At those rates, a single ride on the subway would cost $3 in four years and $3.75 in just ten years, according to an analysis by the city's Independent Budget Office.

But Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran told the MTA board Wednesday that the authority can reduce hikes to 4 percent, increasing fare revenue by only 2 percent in 2015 and 2017.

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The dollar amount of the fare hike is yet to be determined and would include a public hearing process.

The reduction means the MTA would lose $905 million in revenue, according to the 2014-2017 financial plan.

But the loss would be offset by more cost-cutting, in addition to the already-lowered expenses and increased operating revenues that make the reduction possible.

Specifically, increased fares, better than anticipated receipts from the MTA's real estate operations, reduced debt service and increased transit services has helped slash the MTA deficit by $791 million since July's budget plan—paving the way for the proposed hike decrease.

Transit advocates and elected officials have called for lower hikes since the MTA's financial prospects seemed to improve in the last few months.

The Straphanger's Campaign applauded the decision but cautioned against the effects of fare hikes.

"For many New Yorkers, the planned transit fares were just too damn high," the campaign said in a statement. "For their families, the transit fare has come to represent one of the ways it is so challenging to afford to live here."

"We try to keep costs down in order to minimize the financial burden on our customers, and as this financial plan shows, we are succeeding in that effort," MTA head Thomas Prendergast said in a statement.

Despite the positive outlook, Foran was cautious in his presentation. The budget projections —and the reduced fares —are contingent on a deal with the MTA's primary worker union, the Transport Workers Union Local 100. The deal would mean no increased wages for workers.

John Samuelsen, the union's president, said in a statement that the MTA had enough revenue to "pay a decent raise to its workers" and forgo any fare increases.

"They're tossing a few crumbs at the public and expect to be patted on the back. It's pretty outrageous," Samuelson said. "Both the workers and the riders deserve better."

The Payroll Mobility Tax, which faced fierce opposition by suburban legislators, nets some $300 million annually and is also essential for achieving the fare reduction.

Without these key elements, the MTA deficit would increase by about $1.2 billion, according to Foran's presentation to the board. Fares and tolls could then increase and more service reductions may have to go into effect.

The MTA board will vote on the proposal in December.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders

 
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