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DiNapoli: MTA On Right Fiscal Track, But Challenges Remain

Metro-North Railroad New Haven Line M-8 Rail Car (credit: Evan Bindelglass / CBSNewYork)

Metro-North Railroad New Haven Line M-8 Rail Car (credit: Evan Bindelglass / CBSNewYork)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reports that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is on the right track fiscally after years of crises that forced fare and toll increases.

But he says those increases are scheduled to rise at three times the inflation rate, hurting commuters in New York City and its suburbs.

“Fare and toll hikes continue to outpace inflation, placing a burden on working men and women across the metropolitan region,” DiNapoli said in a just released annual financial outlook report.

EXTRA: Click Here To See The Full Report

He said the MTA’s plan calls for fares and tolls to rise 7 percent next year and another 7 percent in 2015. If approved, the fares and tolls will have risen 35 percent since 2007, DiNapoli said.

The comptroller said nearly all of the revenue generated by next year’s fare increase — nearly half a billion dollars a year — is needed to pay for existing projects and agency debt, not for new improvements.

The report also points to other challenges, including the slow economic recovery, upcoming union negotiations and controversy about its payroll tax.

“Ridership is rising and the MTA’s finances are stabilizing, but there are areas of concern,” DiNapoli said.

Passed in 2009, employers in the 12-county MTA region shell out a 34 cent tax for every $100 of payroll. But in August, a state judge ruled the tax unconstitutional.

Without it, MTA passengers would have to close the gap.

In a statement released Tuesday, MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota noted DiNapoli recognizes the cost-cutting and other measures of the authority.

“His report recognizes the significant financial challenges the MTA faces in the near term, the aggressive steps we have taken to meet them, and our ongoing efforts to address longer-term challenges, including identifying funding sources for our 2015-2019 Capital Program,” Lhota said.

DiNapoli’s findings include:

  • The MTA between now and 2016 will face annual budget gaps of $487 million to $1.4 billion, which will be closed by scheduled fare and toll increases and spending cuts.
  • Ridership was 1.64 million last year, the highest level since 1950, and is expected to grow.
  • Long Island Rail Road ridership remains less than its peak before the recession of 87.5 million riders in 2008.
  • Metro-North ridership increased for two years in a row to 80.4 million riders in 2011. A new high is expected this year, with ridership expected to grow by 4.3 percent.
  • Overtime pay and health care costs continue to rise.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)