New York commuters are dealing with a double-whammy: the aftermath of one of the city's worst blizzards and a transit fare increase that has some riders fuming as they face a dysfunctional public transit system.
"I'm angry — 100 percent mad! I can't afford this," said Tony James, an unemployed crane operator waiting in line Wednesday at Manhattan's West 34th Street subway station to buy a $2.25 single-ride ticket home to Brooklyn.
At 12:01 a.m. Thursday, that price increased to $2.50.
The cost of riding the city's subways, buses and commuter rails increased for the third time in three years and comes just months after severe cuts to service. The latest bump comes ahead of another planned hike in 2013. Tolls also went up at the MTA's bridges and tunnels.
The increases are helping the nation's largest transit agency to close a huge budget gap.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's new fares kicked in even as plows criss-crossed the city, still working to remove snow that had slowed or stopped subway service for days and left nearly 50 public buses stuck on roads.
The Christmas weekend blizzard hit New York on Sunday, dumping 20 inches of snow on the city.
"The snow removal is disgusting; it's still all over the side streets," James said Wednesday of his Crown Heights neighborhood, where stranded vehicles forced some buses to make detours.
The city official heading the cleanup effort said the situation would improve by the time people were paying more for their rides.
"We expect all streets to be plowed by Thursday morning," Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said Wednesday.
But MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker said Wednesday that getting bus service back to normal by Thursday would be a challenge. She said bus service would be especially spotty in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens, where many roads were all but impassable.
All over the city, bus passengers climbed over high piles of snow that had been plowed off roads and blocked stops. Occasional clearances between the mounds were filled with deep puddles of slush that swallowed some pedestrians' feet.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday that the city was dispatching hundreds of workers to clear the bus stops and crosswalks.
"We did not do as good a job as we wanted to do or as the city has the right to expect," the mayor acknowledged, adding, "I cannot tell you for sure why it was a lot worse this time than other times."
As of Wednesday afternoon, transit officials said most subway lines were running, except a snowed-in section of the N train in Brooklyn running on open tracks, and the Franklin Avenue shuttle covering four stops in Crown Heights.
But a power issue late Wednesday caused problems on the B and the Q lines in Brooklyn; B service was suspended entirely and indefinitely, and the Q line was diverted to tracks used by the D line.
Subways were generally running close to schedule, Parker said.
The Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North commuter railroad linking the city with its northern suburbs — both run by the MTA — were also back in service. Metro-North was on its normal schedule and the LIRR reported a near-regular schedule. Bus service replaced LIRR trains headed to Long Island's far eastern North Fork.
As restoration of full service inched closer, the increase went into effect.
On Thursday, a single-ride ticket rose by 25 cents to $2.50, and the monthly unlimited Metrocards by $15 to $104, from the previous $89. An unlimited weekly pass increased from $27 to $29.
However, the per-ride cost remained $2.25 if purchased through a Metrocard.
The snow-related transit slowdown comes on top of budget cuts earlier this year that eliminated some subway lines and slashed service on others. In addition, hundreds of MTA workers were laid off to help eliminate a $900 million gap by year's end.
State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from Brooklyn, didn't mince words about the double-barreled hit on New York commuters.
"The city that never sleeps has been rendered comatose by incompetence and a lack of adequate preparation at City Hall and the MTA," Jeffries said in a statement. "The decision by the MTA to increase transit fares to record levels for service that remains limited, unreliable or non-existent is completely unacceptable."
He called for an investigation of the state-run agency.
MTA Chairman Jay Walder said the fare increase "has been planned for six months and it has to go forward at this point." He said it was "fundamental" to balancing the agency's budget.
Waiting for an M11 bus on Manhattan's Ninth Avenue, postal worker Ira Stolnick was philosophical about his transit-challenged city.
"The city is dying for money, and if it takes more money to make things run better — then let it be," the 51-year-old Bronx resident said as he scaled a 3-foot mound of snow.