MTA officials feel the heat at public hearing on hikes
Hundreds of people braved the brutal cold last night to deliver a blast of heat to MTA officials at the first public hearing over planned fare increases and service cuts.
We think that the fare hikes are not necessary, said Marvin Holland, an MTA worker who gathered with about 50 other protesters outside the Hilton New York in midtown before the hearing began, waving signs that read Bail out the People.
Transit riders, advocates and elected officials crowded into a hotel ballroom, where MTA executives and board members listened to an outpouring of anger and frustration.Quinn Raymond, 30, an East Village resident, voiced his outrage over plans to eliminate the M8 bus, which connects the East and West Villages.
Ive been riding the M8 since I started first grade in 1984, said Raymond, who had a petition with 3,000 signatures. Its the backbone of our community.
The MTA, facing a $1.2-billion budget gap, recently presented two fare-hike scenarios.
The first would equally distribute the hike among all fares, increase unlimited MetroCards by about 25 percent, and raise a monthly pass to $103 from $81.
The second would eliminate the bonus on MetroCards and bring the monthly card up to $99. The MTA also proposed doomsday-like service cuts that eliminate some train lines and bus routes while severely limiting others.
The board will vote on the proposals on March 25 and would implement them in June.
At yesterdays hearing, board chairman Dale Hemmerdinger said he understood riders displeasure.
If we didnt want to hear what you have to say we wouldnt hold these hearings, he said to jeers from the crowd. We would like to leave the fares just the way they are. We would like to leave the service, thats why we will be going up to Albany again and again.
The state Legislature is considering proposals from a governor-appointed commission that would keep fare increases to 8 percent by instituting a payroll tax and putting tolls on East River bridges.
The MTA will hold seven more public hearings. The next one will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing.
Anita Romm, 69, of the Bronx, said the higher fares are imposing too much of a burden.
Middle class and working class people are being squeezed every which way, she said.