When it comes to subway and bus fare increases, it isn’t looking so much as a question of “if” but questions of “how much” and “when.” Facing looming budget deficits, MTA executive director Eliot G. Sander said on Wednesday that the agency would seek to increase revenues from trains and buses, commuter trains, and bridge and tunnel tolls by 6.5 percent.
The grim news is part of a preliminary financial plan that will be voted on in December, so it’s not clear how much fares— single ride versus monthly MetroCard, for example— would be increased. The proposed increases would go in to effect early next year.
Pensions, health care, debt service were driving up costs, while income from taxes on real estate transactions were expected to decline, the MTA said.
The Straphangers Campaign said the fare hike should be entwined with congestion pricing and offered an analysis of the MTA’s finances.
Straphanger’s staff attorney Gene Russianoff said, selling the fare hike to riders:
will be the agency’s biggest challenge since it will be running a surplus in 2008, although it predicts large deficits in the following years. Much of the MTA’s long-term deficit is caused by growing interest on the $32 billion that the MTA has been forced to borrow since 1982. These bonds made up for a lack of city and state aid badly needed to fund key repairs to the 103 year old transit system. Borrowing costs will eat up an astonishing 20% of the MTA’s costs by the end of the decade. It is only fair to acknowledge that the MTA has what is called a “structural” deficit that will require new revenues in future years to address recurring deficits. But there is no question that many New Yorkers – especially the most vulnerable economically — will be asking what they are getting for a fare increase.
Not that an extra $100 million would solve the problem, but how’s the MTA decision to let Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards, have the Vanderbilt Rail Yards for $100 million looking these days? The MTA’s own appraisal valued the land at $214 million—riders aren’t get that discount.
Finally, Russianoff said the fare hikes should be linked to congestion pricing:
Any proposal to raise fares should only be seriously considered if and when the state legislature approves Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal and/or other transit aid to raise billions of dollars to fix transit and take pressure off the budget. As was the case in 2003, the decision on fares should not be made before the early spring – specifically no earlier than March 31st, 2008, the date the state legislature is due to decide the fate of congestion pricing.