MTA to Add $29 Million of New and Restored Service, Delays Fare Hikes

Fare and toll hikes expected in January will be postponed until March 2013

In what MTA officials are calling "the biggest one-time addition of service ever," the authority plans to add or restore $29 million of bus, train and subway service, and delay planned fare and toll hikes.

It's the best news in a while for straphangers, who were expecting a 7.5 percent fare hike in January and are still reeling from draconian service cuts that hit in 2010.

"I want them to know we're listening to them," said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, of MTA riders.

Now, Lhota said, the fare and toll hikes will be postponed until March 2013. Those increases would be unavoidable even if the authority did not restore service, he said.

Lhota said the MTA's financial picture is "fragile" but "not as fragile" as when it implemented the 2010 cuts. The rosier budget picture stems in part from increased use -- particularly on weekends, which have seen the highest subway ridership in 62 years, Lhota said. To meet that demand, the authority will add Saturday and Sunday subway service for the first time in years.

"The MTA has become a way of life on the weekend," Lhota said.

The new routes and added buses were also prompted by increased demand in rapidly growing neighborhoods, including several in Brooklyn and on Manhattan's far west side.

Transit officials say subway ridership has reached levels unseen since the 1950s. Metro-North Railroad, meanwhile, is approaching a record ridership of more than 85 million rides in 2012.

On Long Island, trains are being added to accommodate the surging ridership on nights and weekends to the island's eastern shores.

The transit authority will add five new bus routes, including a new north-south route along Manhattan's far west side that will serve the West Village, Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and Clinton. Brooklyn is getting three new routes: one that connects downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yard; another along the Williamsburg waterfront; and a third that will serve the residents of Spring Creek.

The fifth new route will serve passengers in Hunts Point in the Bronx.

Established bus routes will be extended to include new growth areas, such as increased traffic near the Gateway Center Mall in the Bronx and to Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood, among others.

The only planned change for the subway is in Brooklyn, where the temporary extension of the G line to Church Avenue will be made permanent.

Metro-North is adding 230 trains per week, with 220 of them east of the Hudson and 10 west of it, in the largest service expansion since the railroad came into existence in 1983. Much of that service will be on weekends and off-peak hours.The Long Island Rail Road will increase service during off-peak periods on the Ronkonkoma branch, add rush hours trains on the Montauk, Long Beach and Port Jefferson branches and extend late-evening train service at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal. The LIRR will also add diesel "scoot" trains — which are lighter and more cost-effective than typical LIRR trains — on the Montauk branch during evening hours.

The LIRR's changes will be phased in beginning in November.

The announcements will be presented to the board next week, but these actions do not require board approval.

According to the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, a total of $260 million was slashed from transit funding in the three budgets since 2009 -- leading to the loss of two subway lines, 32 bus routes and 570 bus stops.

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