Riders & Pols blast MTA for fare hike

Mass transit riders and local elected officials are outraged over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) decision to hike rates on many of its subway and bus fares as well as the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), bridges and tunnels.
The MTA board recently approved its 2008 budget, which authorized increases on one-day fun pass MetroCards, seven-day pass cards, 30-day bus passes, a 4 percent hike on most monthly fares for LIRR and Metro-North trains and even a 3.8 percent increase for E-ZPass users.
“The MTA is still obstinate in their ways,” said City Councilmember John Liu, who chairs the council’s transportation committee. “They convince themselves that a fare hike is good for the public and they say this while sitting on close to $1 billion surplus, and then they wonder why they have so much disdain.”
Meanwhile, the MTA board overwhelmingly approved the increases in the budget that MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot Sander said were necessary to combat expected deficits of up to $6 billion over the next four years.
“This is the first step in putting the MTA on firm fiscal footing, and I look forward to working with the board and our government partners to find critical capital funding to upgrade and expand the transit network,” Sander said.
However, many elected officials are not convinced.
“I am further troubled that the Authority is stalling planned service enhancements - including important improvements to weekend, evening and overnight subway service and new bus routes - until after March 31,” City Comptroller Bill Thompson said. “New York City has waited long enough for its rails and bus service to be brought into a State of Good Repair. It’s a shame that riders are now going to be paying more and receiving less.”
Gene Russianoff, the staff attorney for the New York Straphangers Campaign, expressed concern that the MTA adopted the budget without requesting additional state assistance in order to cover the expected deficits.
“You are supposed to be an independent public authority, but you accepted Governor Spitzer’s plan to simply adopt the shortsighted transit budget policies of his predecessor, George Pataki,” Russianoff said in a statement. “It is a big political mistake for Governor Spitzer and the MTA to give the back of their hand to 100 legislators who have said they want to help.”
Meanwhile, Liu said he and Brooklyn Councilmember Bill de Blasio sent letters to MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger and Sander asking the authority to adopt a subway riders’ bill of rights that would include on time, safe trains, working public address systems and immediate, real-time information on service delays and alternative travel routes.

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