Fares grow, service declines
A $103 monthly MetroCard. Long, crowded commutes. Entire subway lines cut. Scads of subway stations shuttered at night.
By a 12-1 vote, the MTA board ushered these doomsday scenarios into reality, approving a range of steep fare hikes and service cuts and predicting yet another increase next year if Albany lawmakers don't immediately address the agencys ballooning fiscal crisis.
No less than the future of the MTA and the region is at stake, said board chairman Dale Hemmerdinger to a packed room of officials and advocates.
Without state bailout cash, board members predicted the system would slide into a new era of dysfunction, rife with late trains, ridership declines and dangerously vacant stations.
This is going to make New York a very different place, and it won't be a better place, said Andrew Albert, a nonvoting board member.Fares will increase by at least 23 percent on May 31 and dozens of service cuts will be in place by year's end.
We're furious, said Quinn Raymond, 31, who collected 3,300 signatures to save the M8 bus from the chopping block. The entire system is going to grind to a halt.
Six subways lines will be eliminated or truncated, and 18 bus routes would be bagged.
The fares and cuts will plug the $1.2 billion deficit in the MTA's 2009 budget. But just to keep the subways moving, MTA officials will likely have to raise fares again next year because tax revenues have already declined by $120 million.
That would mean a fare hike three years in a row, a record for the 104-year-old system.
My paycheck didn't go up, said Amy Elizabeth Bravo, 27, of the Bronx. I don't see the need for such a raise.
Despite the support of Gov. David Paterson and Assembly Democrats, Albany failed to enact a MTA bailout that would have instated bridge tolls, a payroll tax and an 8 percent fare hike. Senate Democrats balked on the tolls and put forward a smaller plan that scraps funding for large subway repairs or construction projects.
I think our friends in Albany have lost their way, said James Sedore, a board member.
MTA officials held out hope yesterday that the state would act now that the cuts and fare increases are real. Some straphangers pledged to flood lawmakers with angry calls from constituents.
They are going to pay for this, said Raymond, the M8 bus rider. These cuts are very undeserved.
The MTA today will begin the process of reprogramming vending machines, bus fare boxes and turnstiles across the system. MTA officials said the changes could be reversed if Albany acts fast on new funding, but did not offer a firm deadline yesterday.
A source close to the MTA said reprogramming the machines takes a month, so the fare hike could be reversed if the agency receives more cash by the end of April.
Up in Albany, leaders have become consumed with passing the budget by April 1. Transit advocates believe leaders will not likely return to the MTA bailout until mid-month.
This is the one shred of hope I'm holding on to, said Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign.
More Money, Less Service
The fare hikes take affect May 31, service cuts start in May and higher bridge tolls take affect July 11. Heres just a taste of what you should expect:
-$2.50 base fare
-$103 monthly MetroCard
- M and Z trains shuttered
- G service terminated at Court Square at all times
- No N service at six stations in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn on evenings and weekends
- 21 local bus lines eliminated