“Draconian” Fare Hikes Looming, MTA Boss Warns

Substantial fare hikes and service cuts seem inevitable.

The MTA says it now needs to fill a $1.2 billion gap in next year's budget, which has to be adopted by the end of this year. That's a lot of dough they'll need to find fast. Although MTA CEO Lee Sander is hoping for help from Washington or Albany there's a reasonable chance that will NOT happen. So then what?

Sander warned of "Draconian" fare hikes and service cuts -- the details of which will be presented to the full MTA board in 10 days. But here's a peak at what board members will see:

The current plan for 2009 called for an 8 percent fare hike, which would generate about $400 million a year.

Unfortunately fare hikes (and service cuts) can't really go into effect until the middle of next year after public hearings, reprogramming of computers, etc. So the 8 percent actually produces only about $200 million next year. That leaves the agency a BILLION dollars short.

Let's still assume the $1.2 billion gap will be made up of half cuts and half hikes. That's $600 million in both.

How do you get $600 million in service cuts? By slashing trains, buses, and subways by 15%. Imagine 15% fewer trains on the LIRR at rush hour or 15% fewer subways on the Lex and you get the picture.

The $600 million in fare hikes is even more frightening. To hit that number fares would have to go up across the system (TA, Metro North, bridges and tunnels, LIRR) by roughly 25%.

That would send the current $2 subway/bus fare to $2.50 and a monthly fare card from $81 to $101. Ouch.

Crossing the Triborough? That would go from $5 each way to $7.50. A ticket from Penn to Mineola would jump from $8.50 to $10.60. Grand Central to White Plains? $8.75 becomes $11.

That's what's coming down the track if the MTA can't get money from Washington or Albany between now and December 31.

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