Reporting Marla Diamond
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Long-awaited fare hikes finally arrived on Thursday after a week of frustrating delays on buses, subways and more.
Despite roads and rails still being affected by Sunday’s blizzard, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority went ahead with its scheduled increase in fares.
“It has to go forward. At this point the agency fundamentally needs the resources,” MTA chairman Jay Walder said.
Commuters, however, asked how the MTA could go forward without being 100 percent in service.
“I had to beg a ride to go to work because I couldn’t get no train, no bus,” commuter Daphne Armenstein said.
Just as straphangers begin to see a return to normal service, they are getting smacked with fare hikes and they’ll affect almost everyone—from buses to subways to the Long Island Railroad to Metro North and most bridges and tunnels.
The price of a single-ride subway ticket is now $2.50, a 7-day unlimited pass is $29 and a 30-day unlimited card is $104. And despite the fact that the LIRR and Metro North were shut down during the storm, monthly passholders will not get a credit or refund.
“It’s unfair to New Yorkers. Service is bad. Everything is bad and look what happened in the snowstorm. And now they’re gonna raise it another quarter?” Harry Taggart, of Bensonhurst, said.
Between the roads and the rails, going anyplace is still a challenge.
“I’ve been hitchhiking. I know it’s dangerous, but I could not get down my street. It’s a sheet of ice,” said Diane Velez, of Middle Village.
Sources tell CBS-2 the MTA eased into the disaster, waiting until Sunday—well after the storm hit—to declare an all-hands-on-deck Level 4 Emergency. That decision caused mass chaos—trains packed with passengers were stranded for hours and hundreds of buses were stuck in snowdrifts.
The price hike is a one-two punch for riders like Robert O’Dea of West Orange. He was among hundreds of passengers stranded for seven hours Monday night on the A train as the City reeled from blizzard conditions.
“We just started freezing and every hour that passed we couldn’t believe we were there for another hour,” O’Dea said.
The snow-related transit slowdown comes on top of budget cuts earlier this year that eliminated some subway lines and slashed service on others. In addition, the MTA laid off hundreds of workers to help eliminate a $900 million gap by year’s end.
State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from Brooklyn, didn’t mince words about the double-barreled hit on New York commuters.
“The city that never sleeps has been rendered comatose by incompetence and a lack of adequate preparation at City Hall and the MTA,” Jeffries said in a statement. “The decision by the MTA to increase transit fares to record levels for service that remains limited, unreliable or nonexistent is completely unacceptable.”
He called for an investigation of the state-run agency.
Walder said the fare increase “has been planned for six months and it has to go forward at this point.” He said it was “fundamental” to balancing the agency’s budget.
The city official heading the cleanup effort said the situation would improve by the time people were paying more for their rides.
“We expect all streets to be plowed by Thursday morning,” Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said Wednesday.
But MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker said Wednesday that getting bus service back to normal by Thursday would be a challenge. She said bus service would be especially spotty in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens, where many roads were all but impassable.
All over the city, bus passengers climbed over high piles of snow that had been plowed off roads and blocked stops. Occasional clearances between the mounds were filled with deep puddles of slush that swallowed some pedestrians’ feet.
After this week, many commuters just see it all as a slap in the face.
“Bloomberg, I don’t know what you’re doing,” said Donna Timp, of Coney Island.
The MTA said it’s planning a full review of what went wrong and how it can improve for next time.
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