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MTA fare hike for repairs not on table, chief says

J train passengers enter the Jamaica Avenue &

J train passengers enter the Jamaica Avenue & 111th Street subway station in Richmond Hill, Queens, Thursday, March 19, 2015. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A massive fare hike to cover the MTA's transit repair needs would be "unconscionable," the agency's CEO told reporters Wednesday.

Tom Prendergast stressed the need for the city and state to pay for transit after the MTA's chief financial officer raised the idea of a 15% fare hike if the transportation authority was left to fund repairs and expansion plans on its own. The MTA's five-year blueprint for fixing and enhancing the system would cost $32 billion.

"We have never ever closed the capital program on the backs of the fare payers," Prendergast said in rare opening remarks before his monthly questions from reporters. "That's unconscionable, that's not our desire, that's not what we're going to do."

Prendergast's comments come weeks before the city finalizes its budget and state lawmakers leave Albany in June. Yet, there is not even an agreement on the right size of the capital improvement and expansion plan, half of which remains unfunded. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had initially called the plan "bloated."

"We need to make sure it's clear that we have agreement on the size of the ask and how we're going to get this funded before those bodies close out their work this year," Prendergast said.

Cuomo has since budgeted just $1 billion for the MTA's capital needs; the MTA has asked for $125 million from the city, which is not included in any proposals yet. Prendergast added that the city's contribution "needs to be up probably closer to $200 million."

Most of the money -- $22 billion -- covers work to repair the system, with the rest going to enhance service and megaprojects, like the next leg of the Second Avenue subway.

"We got to do things in terms of enhancing the system and expanding it," he said. "Our ridership base and demographics of our ridership base is changing."


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