Tuesday, February 7, 2023

MTA board postpones fare hike hearing: What it means for your wallet

NEW YORK — Happy New Years from the MTA! You have a few more months before they ask you for more money to use public transport.

The transit agency’s board opted Wednesday to postpone a hearing on fare increases until at least the end of February, meaning MTA subway and bus fares, along with bridge tolls, could go up until June.

The increase usually begins in March each year, followed by a vote in December. MTA President and CEO Janno Lieber said Wednesday that the mock hearings would be delayed to allow a subcommittee to study fairness and other variables.

An MTA fare hike is potentially inevitable as the cash-strapped transit agency still grapples with the aftermath of the pandemic, but the transit agency detailed the dire financial straits it found as a result of the pandemic.

Top transit officials showed MTA board members on November 30 how dire the deficit was, according to MTA chief financial officer Kevin Willens, and said it was expected to approach $3 billion by 2026. Is.

Cause of the crisis? Ridership is yet to fully return to pre-pandemic levels, which were only two-thirds of what they were in late November 2019.

The office of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli demanded to know how the MTA plans to save money and fund operations as it tries to close the budget gap caused by COVID-19. According to the comptroller’s office, the agency received a $15 billion federal bailout, but at least two-thirds of that was spent to keep it afloat.

“Federal relief is not forever,” DiNapoli said earlier this month. “Some of it is in the form of loans that have to be paid back. And ridership hasn’t come back.”

The comptroller also warned that a lack of government funding and a fall in passenger numbers could lead to severe service cuts and fare hikes in the future.

In response to the comptroller’s report, the MTA said, “It remains committed to maintaining strong service for our riders, and this report underscores that post-pandemic budgeting with fare increases and service reductions only.” Solving the gap is not an attractive option.”

As far as saving costs, Lieber has said that the service cuts suggested by DiNapoli were not on the table. However, the agency has announced plans to adjust subway service on more than a dozen lines in 2023 to better reflect post-pandemic ridership. This means weekends, weekdays, and shifts on other days. See details.

If the loss cannot be recovered through service cuts, then the next option is to increase fares, and passengers are not enthusiastic about it.

Cyclist Peggy Banks said, “It shouldn’t even be the rate it is now. They want more money, but we’re not getting the service we need! It’s out of control.”

The state audit showed that before the pandemic, subway and bus fares accounted for 42% of the MTA’s revenue. Now, he says, it’s just 24%, which only helps narrow the deficit by $1.6 billion, officials say.

DiNapoli’s office says a 28% fare increase would be needed to ease the MTA’s financial pain. An increase in that amount would increase the price of a trip from $2.75 to $3.50.

Meanwhile, Lieber has recommended a more modest fare increase of 5%, which would be about 15 cents more than passengers are paying now. He also said that the financial crisis could be avoided if federal, state and local governments injected hundreds of millions of dollars more cash.

“And if they also want a response that raises the rate unnecessarily, we’re all ears,” Lieber said.

Nation World News Desk
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