New York

Commuters Voice Frustration at MTA's First Hearing on Toll, Subway, Rail Hikes

What to Know

  • Frustrated commuters sounded off at the MTA's first hearing on its latest round of toll and fare hikes
  • The MTA is considering a 4 or 8 percent toll hike, a 4 percent increase on rail and express buses
  • For subways, there are two options: Keep subway base fare the same and get rid of MetroCard bonuses or hike base fares by 4 percent

Unhappy commuters flooded the MTA's first hearing Tuesday on its latest plan to increase fares and tolls to express frustration and distrust. 

The MTA is considering an 8 percent toll hike -- double the usual percentage increase -- along with a 4 percent hike for commuter rail and express buses. Subway riders would have two painful options: keep base fare at $2.75 while eliminating MetroCard bonuses; or increase base fares by 4 percent, and raise the 30-day card by 5 percent. 

"It's corruption, and we're paying for it," one rider said at the meeting. 

Transit advocates say riders are being forced to pay more for a service that's gotten significantly worse in recent years. 

"It's ridiculous," griped another meeting attendee. 

Joyce Denny was pushed on the subway nearly 30 years, leaving her reliant on a bus that she says is simply unreliable. 

"My pay was docked a few times. I've been spoken to, and time to time had to come late because of my bus," she said. 

Speakers pleaded with the board to push the state for congestion pricing and for more investment to plug the MTA's half-billion dollar deficit. But when asked if there's any chance the rate hikes could be avoided, MTA Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer didn't mince words.

"You mean barring the Tooth Fairy, putting it under our pillows?" he said. 

Sources first told News 4 last week that the 8 percent toll hike is double the typical increase to funnel some more money into the capital plan. One source described that plan as the MTA's "own version of congestion pricing." If the board does not approve that, there's an option for a 4 percent hike instead, the sources say. 

In another effort to save money, the cash-strapped agency wants to delay the planned launch of Select Bus Service on 96th Street in Manhattan by a year.

Officials had said at a board meeting in July that they planned to increase fares twice in the next three years, including a 4 percent hike in 2019 and a second 4 percent hike in 2021.

The semi-annual increases would constitute the sixth and seventh hikes since 2009 --when base subway and bus fares were bumped from $2 to $2.25. The upcoming hikes have also been part of a long-planned increases every other year dating back to that year.

MTA officials said in July that even with the planned hikes, it is projecting significant deficits over the next several years. Officials blamed the budget gap on a second straight year of declining ridership as well as lower real estate revenues than expected.

The proposed hikes come a bit more than a year after Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the subways. Then-MTA chairman Joe Lhota, who announced his immediate resignation last week, had developed a Subway Action Plan aimed at improving service but had faced significant criticism in recent months over aging infrastructure, communication and frequent delays.

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