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MTA Approves Fare, Toll Hikes; Changes Take Effect March 1

Riders, Commuters, Lawmakers Say Another Increase Is In No Way A Solution
Long Island Railroad ticket machine (credit: Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

Long Island Railroad ticket machine (credit: Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is once again asking you to dig deep into your pockets to get where you need to go.

The MTA board voted on the proposed fare and toll increases on Wednesday. Members unanimously approved the hikes — the fourth increase in the last five years. Only one member voted against increasing tolls.

The changes will take effect March 1.

Area residents were miffed.

“It’s getting to be too expensive for the average person,” Park Slope’s Michael Raf told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.

“It’s just too much. It’s too much money. We don’t have money like that,” added Shaniqua Webb of Brooklyn.

“You’re sort of trapped. It’s the cheapest way other than walking,” said Danielle Fredericks of the West Village.

1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa Reports

As part of the plan, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North fares will increase about 9 percent on average and express bus fares will rise by 50 cents, to $6.

“Nine percent for the railroad is ridiculous,” Farmingdale’s Chris Hermanek told CBS 2’s Hennessey.

The base fare for subway and bus riders will rise a quarter to $2.50. The seven-day MetroCard will go up a dollar to $30 and the 30-day MetroCard will go up $8 to $112.

For drivers, tolls on the bridges and tunnels will also rise.

Cash tolls on the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Throgs Neck Bridge, Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and Robert F. Kennedy Bridge will rise by a dollar to $7.50. E-ZPass users will pay $5.33, up from $4.80.

The toll for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will be reduced for Staten Island residents. Those with a valid resident E-ZPass plan who make one or two westbound trips per month per account will be charged $6.36 per trip. Those who make three or more trips per month will be charged $6.00 a trip.

For non-residents, tolls will be $10.66 for E-ZPass users, and $15 for cash users.

“We’re talking about the restaurants, the stores, the small businesses, cultural institutions on Staten Island that can’t attract people off Staten Island because no one wants to pay $15 to get there,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb Reports

Tolls on the Henry Hudson Bridge will increase to $2.44 for E-ZPass users, up from the current $2.20. For others, the toll will increase to $5.

Tolls at the Cross Bay Bridge and the Marine Parkway-Gill Hodges Memorial Bridge will rise to $2.00 for E-ZPass users, up from $1.80, and $3.75 for cash users, up from $3.25.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, about a dozen members of the public spoke out against the fare and toll increases.

“What else is a fare hike but a new tax on working people?” one person said.

“It’s not fair to people; not fair to the elderly,” transit worker Paul Piazza said.

“You’re turning people into ATM machines on behalf of the banks — that’s what you’re doing,” rider Tony Murphy said.

Board members agreed.

“Nobody likes to increase fares; nobody likes to increase taxes,” Charles Moerdler said.

“But unfortunately after looking at everything it’s the only option we have,” Mitchell Pally added.

Another board member said unless the agency finds another revenue stream, the MTA will be in the  same position in another couple of years, CBS 2’s Hennessey reported.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota responded by saying, “We are not the fat, profligate, out-of-control agency that people have tried to make the MTA out to be. We are an agency that 8.5 million people rely on every single day to get to work, to get to school, to get to doctor’s appointments, to get to wherever they need to go,” he said.

The increases would bring in an additional $450 million a year for the MTA.

The fare hike was met with criticism by some local leaders.

“The damage inflicted on our  transit system by Superstorm Sandy has added over $700 million in new debt to  the MTA yet despite this blow, we’ve seen no action to reform the MTA’s broken  finances,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer stated. “A continual reliance on a combination of unprecedented borrowing, and fare hikes every two years is unsustainable — not when working families in this city continue to struggle to make ends meet.”

Meanwhile, Lhota announced his resignation effective Dec. 31 to explore a run for mayor.

“I will be exploring a potential candidacy for the mayor of New York. This will be a life-defining decision and one that I will be seriously considering in the upcoming weeks,” Lhota told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb on Wednesday.

Lhota stepped in as head of the MTA in January and has received high marks since then, particularly for his handling of Superstorm Sandy.

Should Lhota win the Republican primary, Democratic challengers are likely to include City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson and current Comptroller John Liu.

Lhota announced that former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer will take over as acting chairman on Jan. 1.

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