The MTA is promising riders they won't have to shell out any of the $4.75 billion it will take to fully restore the subway, but straphangers aren't holding their breath.
That staggering price tag is the MTA's estimate for repairing infrastructure damage and getting the subway system in the same shape it was in before Hurricane Sandy hit. The hope is that insurance will dole out $1 billion and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover most of the rest, but the MTA could be burdened with at least $950 million, which it plans to cover with 30-year bonds.
While MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota promised Wednesday customers won't be saddled with the bill, the Straphangers Campaign warns the financial plan will eventually lead straight into the pockets of riders.
"Funding these needs by MTA bonds will increase pressure on fares through increased debt service — and it sets a troubling precedent for the funding of the next five-year capital program starting in 2015," Straphangers Campaign spokesman Gene Russianoff said. "Bottom line, this puts a lot of pressure on the operating budget and that’s not good news for the riding public."
The campaign did commend the MTA for avoiding service cuts in 2013 and sticking to its pledge to restore $29 million in subway and bus service.
Some straphangers have already felt gouged as the result of Sandy — the MTA announced in November there would be no refunds or extensions for people who purchased unlimited MetroCards and were unable to use them during service interruptions due to the storm.
MTA officials are also set to vote on the 2013 budget Dec. 19, which will likely include a fare hike. The proposals unveiled in October range from increasing the base MetroCard fare 25 cents to $2.50, to a steeper spike of raising the cost of a monthly MetroCard to $125.