MTA fare and toll hikes stir criticism among commuters

Frustrated commuters gathered at Brooklyn College on Thursday, December 11 for a public hearing hosted by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to pan proposed fare and toll hikes.

Set to take effect in March 2015, the new proposals, which would increase fares and tolls by four percent over the next two years, have caused a stir among daily subway, bus and bridge users throughout the tri-state area—many of whom attended the Brooklyn hearing to express their concerns.

“With the increase of tolls, I go to Jersey to see my family and I cut back. It hurts me,” said Brooklyn resident Peter Russo. “You’re pushing the middle class people out of the city of New York. Take that into focus.”

Sarah Logan, from the Bronx, said she is constantly late for work due to subway delays.

“You want to raise the fare but what is in it for us when there are constant delays?” Logan asked the MTA board. “We have to tell our boss, sorry I’m late because [of a] train issue. We can’t keep telling our bosses that every morning. Please take into consideration the changes that need to be made so that when you do want to raise the fare, we’re okay with it, because right now, we’re not okay with it.”

According to MTA documents, one proposal would increase the base fare ($2.50) by 25 cents with the bonus amount increasing from five to 11 percent when putting $5.50 or more on a MetroCard. In the second proposal, the base fare for cash, Single Ride Tickets and Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards would remain unchanged; however there would be no bonus. Thirty-day MetroCards would go up $4.50 to $116.50 under both proposals. Seven-day MetroCards would go up $1 to $31.

Express bus fares would increase by 50 cents under the first proposal, to $6.50 ($5.86 with bonus); they would remain $6 under the second proposal, but the bonus would disappear. Seven-day express bus passes would go up $2.25 to $57.25 under both proposals.

As for tolls, proposal one would maintain cash tolls at their current rates for cars, while increasing E-ZPass tolls, decreasing resident discounts and increasing tolls for trucks. The second proposal would keep cash tolls the same, increase E-ZPass tolls, decrease resident discounts and increase truck tolls, some more steeply than others depending on size and E-ZPass use.

“The MTA is keeping its promise to ensure fare and toll increases are as low as possible, and these options are designed to minimize their impact,” said MTA Chair and CEO Thomas Prendergast in a statement. “We have cut more than $1 billion from our ongoing expenses, but a modest fare and toll increase is necessary to balance our budget against the increased costs of providing the bus, subway, railroad and paratransit service.”

Nonetheless, local politicians are siding with commuters.

“The current fare for public transportation and toll bridges is prohibitive and costly. For this simple reason, I ask the MTA to hold off on implementing them,” said State Senator Marty Golden. “The residents of my district, who already have limited options for mass transportation, would be hit hard by the increased fares.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile demanded, again, that resident discounts be provided to Brooklynites, scolding the MTA for diverting funds collected through local tolls to subsidize the LIRR and Metro-North.

“In the end what is needed is a long-term solution that will stabilize finances and make fares equitable for all,” Gentile contended. “That means ending the enormous operating subsidies from bridge revenue and giving discounts to those who deserve them who otherwise, because of frequent use, are trapped into paying higher and higher tolls. If we do so we will finally end this game of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The MTA has scheduled eight public hearings throughout the region. The final vote will be held in January 2015.

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