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Spitzer and the MTA nix fare hike

Riders will not have to dig into their pickets to find an extra 25 cents to ride the subway or bus as Governor Eliot Spitzer and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced they are scrapping plans to increase the base fare to $2.25.
At a news conference on Tuesday, November 20, Spitzer and MTA executives announced that an extra $220 million on the MTA’s balance sheet afforded them the luxury of not raising the base fare from its current $2.
“Based on the current economic climate that has so many New Yorkers feeling squeezed, it seemed only proper that this amount be returned to the riders,” Spitzer said in a statement.
While Spitzer and MTA executives said they would not pursue the increase in the base fare, they did not say whether they would pursue other hikes on weekly or monthly fares. Earlier this year, the MTA announced its intention to institute fare hikes beginning in 2008 for projected deficits the agency expects to have in 2009.
City Councilmember John Liu, who chair’s the Council’s Transportation Committee, said that the projected deficits should not be a reason to raise fares now, especially when the MTA is expecting to end the year with close to a $1 billion operating surplus.
“Hopefully with the governor’s stance, the MTA will drop their almost nonsensical effort to hike the fares and get down to the real business of running our mass transit system, of fixing stations, of terror-proofing the subways, of installing communications capabilities, and maintaining the storm drainage systems,” Liu said.
Since the MTA announced its intention to raise fares, the agency has begun holding public hearings listening to testimony from riders about the proposed hikes.
“When I was confirmed I said I would listen to the public and review the numbers, and I am thrilled that we are able to give something back,” said MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger. “I believe this is a compromise that helps our customers without compromising our fiduciary responsibility, and I look forward to discussing it further with my fellow board members.”
Meanwhile, Queens Assemblymember Rory Lancman applauded the decision to squelch the proposed fare hike, and said he believes the state should commit more funding in subsidies to the MTA in next year’s state budget.
“The state for years has decreased the amount of subsidy that it gives to the MTA,” said Lancman, who believes that the state and city should provide close to $600 million in subsidies to the agency next year.

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