Exclusive: MTA Chairman on Fare Hike: "It's Going to Happen"

The $2.25 base fare would go up to 7.5 percent, to about $2.50.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota told NBC New York in an exclusive interview Friday that fares are definitely going up in 2013. That means a base subway fare increases from $2.25 to $2.50.

    Attention, MetroCard swipers: the cost of a ride will definitely go up in 2013, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota told NBC New York in an exclusive interview Friday.

    "How sure is that? It's going to happen," said Lhota, a former deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani who took the reins of the money-starved agency late last year. He confirmed that previously speculated fare hikes in 2015 and 2017 will also happen, and that all of the jumps will be about 7.5 percent.

    While the exact fare increases haven't been calculated, transit officials expect the base subway and bus fare, which is now $2.25, to rise to $2.50. MTA tolls would also go up; a 7.5 percent hike on a $6.50 toll means an increase to about $7.

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    But the chief executive, who takes the No. 2 train every day from his home in Brooklyn and calls himself "rider/chairman," told NBC New York there are other, more creative ways to make money and begin chipping away at the MTA's $40 million budget gap.

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    "We're trying to look for every place that we possibly can where we have foot traffic, where we can actually have retail operations," said Lhota, strolling through an empty corridor near the Times Square shuttle at Grand Central.

    Only yards away, gleaming new shops have begun to deliver regular returns to the MTA through rent, and a percentage of sales.

    "There are thousands of people who come in here on the weekends just to go shopping," said Lhota.

    The chairman acknowledged that the tight budget requires him to re-brand the way people think about the MTA.

    "We can't start from scratch," he said.

    Immediate priorities include adding more trains, especially on the weekends, where ridership has surged to levels not seen since the 1940s.

    Lhota also told NBC New York that commuters on the lettered lines will get some form of countdown clocks "within two years."

    Meanwhile, the ongoing Fastrack program, which has shut down entire segments of subway lines for days at a time, has brightened up the look at some dreary stations along Sixth and Seventh Avenue.

    "Not only did we change all the light bulbs to make them brighter -- we also cleaned the backs of them," said Lhota. He said the cleaner bulbs make a big difference to riders.

    "Not only did I notice it, a lot of people told it to me," he said.

    Assuming that one day, a better cash flow returns to the system, Lhota is open to big projects, like a train to LaGuardia Airport.

    "We're continuing to look at it," said Lhota, adding that residents in Astoria have long opposed the extension of the N train to the airport. "There are a lot of logistical problems -- you can't have an elevated train in the path of landing, so you'd have to submerge it."

    Already funded projects like the No. 7 extension and the Second Avenue subway are due to open in the next few years. In the meantime, Lhota wants riders to have realistic expectations.

    "What do we have to work with?" asked Lhota. "I want it to work better, cleaner, faster and more frequent. That's not overly sexy, but that's what New Yorkers want."

     

    View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.

    View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.