The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board of directors this morning approved an increase in fares for Metro-North, Long island Rail Road and New York City bus and subway riders. Also going up are tolls at the bridges and tunnels operated by the MTA.The board met at 9 a.m. at MTA headquarters at 2 Broadway in Manhattan. There was an effort by board member Mitchell Pally to delay implementation of the commuter rail price hikes. Pally said that there had not been adequate public hearings and there should be no action until the board has had ample opportunity to hear public input. The board voted against Pally’s motion.
Bridge and tunnel toll increases go into effect March 31. The Metro-North and other fare hikes go into effect April 21. The sense of the board was that the new fare increases are acceptable because the total package of hikes averages in the 2 percent range, which is comparable with current inflation.
Riders on Metro-North will see a 3.85 percent increase in prices for weekly and monthly tickets, to a maximum of $15 on monthly tickets and $5.75 on weekly tickets. Other commuter rail fares will increase a maximum of 6 percent or 50 cents per ticket, whichever is greater. In New York City, there is no change in the basic MetroCard fare, but a 5 percent increase in the 30-day pass. A 7-day pass goes up 3.1 percent.
Bridge and tunnel toll increases vary, but typically amount to about 36 cents per crossing.
In the run-up to the vote, board member Veronica Vanterpool said, “This is a vote to keep service running and keep people working. If we do not support this increase, we’re going to have an even larger hole in the operating budget.”
Board member Neal Zuckerman pointed out that Metro-North needs to do more to ensure attractive, quality service for long-distance riders in Putnam and Dutchess whose fares to commute into Manhattan are at the top end of the price scale. “In the business world, those who spend the most are the best customers,” he said.
Acting MTA Chairman Fernando Ferrer pointed out that deferring the fare and toll hike vote from its January meeting to Feb. 27, “deprived us of $30 million in revenue.” Ferrer said the MTA needs to look at consolidation of operations, and trimming of costs and greater transparency.
Board member Andrew B. Albert said, “We understand that nobody wants a fare hike. That is obvious. But a fare hike is needed so we don’t go through the financial crises of the past.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, for one, has predicted that unless there are basic reforms in the MTA and its financing, such as by introducing congestion pricing to roads leading into midtown Manhattan to help fund MTA capital improvements, 30 percent MTA fare increases might be next.