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Queens transit riders brace for fare hikes

By Gina Martinez

Despite an increase in delays and decrease in customer satisfaction, New York City commuters will have to brace themselves for another round of MTA fare hikes this Sunday.

Single rides will go from $2.50 to $2.75, monthly unlimited MetroCards are going from $112 to $116.50 and weekly passes will go up from $30 to $31. LIRR and Metro-North fares will also rise up to $4.25 depending on the line. Drivers will not be spared Tolls on MTA bridges and tunnels are going up 4 percent at most crossings.

Danny Paul, 23, of Bayside, disagreed with the hike but has accepted it.

“It’s not a good idea,” Paul said. “It’s already expensive enough and I only take the train once a week, If I worked everyday, it would add up way too much. But honestly it doesn’t matter how high the fare goes up. People will complain but still pay, me included.”

The latest increase in fares was approved by the MTA board in January and will continue every two years under the agency’s long-term revenue plan that aims to help balance the budget and rising operating costs.

“The MTA has been able to limit these fare and toll increases to the equivalent of 2 percent a year, thanks to our continued aggressive cost-cutting, while still adding service and improving service quality for our growing number of customers,” MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said. “Our financial plan assumes modest biennial fare and toll increases, and the board has chosen options with lower increases for our most frequent customers.”

More than 6 million straphangers ride the subways every day – a record – for the most in any U.S. city. But many riders have yet to see improvements despite the rise in cost.

“It makes me sad, but the MTA has to do what it has to do,” said Edward Yee, 23, of Forest Hills. “At a certain point the fare hikes will be too ridiculous, and if it continues I’m going to invest in a car. It’ll probably be cheaper.”

Reflecting the views of other subway riders, Yee added, “I’m hoping for improvement in service and technology on the trains because it would be silly to pay more for the same thing.”
Some New Yorkers have taken an alternative route and have campaigned for better service and more funding.

An advocacy group called the Riders Alliance recently began a campaign in hopes of forcing Albany to make significant upgrades to the subway system. Members collected “subway horror stories” during morning rush hour Thursday at Queensboro Plaza station in Long Island City, other stations across the city. The group plans to present the complaints to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to push for more funding for the MTA’s capital plan.

The MTA has proposed a five-year, $32 billion capital plan that will replace failing infrastructure, fund expansion projects and introduce new safety improvements. But don’t expect it to come into play any time soon since the MTA budget is still $15 billion short. Cuomo has called the plan “bloated” and neither he nor the state lawmakers have made any announcements about approving or funding the plan.

“A fare hike is always hard to stomach but given the terrible subway service in western Queens recently, this one seems to be in particularly bad taste,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “This winter the 7 train and the N, Q lines have provided one horror story after another for hardworking New Yorkers just trying to get to the office on time. I can understand if my neighbors are angry about a fare hike on top of abysmal service. I’m angry too.”

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