A rare bit of good news from the Metropolitan Transit Authority: Fare hikes between now and 2017 aren’t going to be as bad as expected! At a board meeting Wednesday, officials announced the hikes planned for 2015 and 2017 would fall from a scheduled 7.5 percent increase to a 4 percent increase. This is good news for commuters to be sure, but the savings will come in part from pretty vicious cost-cutting that will mostly take the form of “net-zero” wage increases for transit workers.
According to MTA representative Kevin Ortiz, the downward revision on fare hike figures has nothing to do with the $1.9 billion surplus the state comptroller discovered in the MTA’s budget. “The two are completely separate,” explains Ortiz.
That’s because the surplus isn’t really a surplus at all. The figure comes from money already tied up in budget planning; it was not as though there was nearly $2 billion languishing a vault 20 leagues beneath the MTA offices.
The savings will instead come from a combination of cutting down overhead costs and keeping wages down, totalling $500 million in reductions through 2015. That, plus the $791 million increase in budget projections between 2014 and 2017, and voilà, fare hike reductions become possible.
At the board meetings, reporters asked if the MTA would actually deliver on the promise. MTA chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast responded by saying “we wouldn’t come forward with a presentation like this if we thought there was a low likelihood of doing it.”