In a surprising turn of events, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced plans to scale back the proposed fare hike. The announcement, coming on the heals of a call from New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer, lessens the fare burden carried by the millions of New Yorkers who rely on the subway each day.
The decision by MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot “Lee” Sander and MTA Board Chair Dale Hemmerdinger, announced in a press release, follow a month of fare hike hearings in which the public spoke out against the planned increases and an updated budget which included an unexpected end-of-the-year windfall of $220 million.
The MTA plans to return this $220 million to the riders over the next two years by reducing the propsed 6.5 percent fare and toll increases. The base fare for subway and bus riders will hold steady at $2.00 a ride, a point Gov. Spitzer stressed this morning. It is anticipated that Unlimited Ride Metorcards will still see a slight price increase.
“I believe this is a compromise that helps our customers without compromising our fiduciary responsibility,” Hemmerdinger said, “and I look forward to discussing it further with my fellow Board members.”
With the extra money, the MTA can hold that base fare steady and still cover their costs. While the details won’t emerge on the compromise for a few weeks, I anticipate that many of the provisions in the current fare hike proposal – notably a reduction in the pay-per-ride discounts – will still go into effect. But the base will remain at its current levels for now.
Both Sander and Hemmerdinger stressed the role the public played in achieving this end result. I’m sure some back-room arm-twisting by a governor in need of a public win had something to do with it as well. Additionally, the two MTA officials seemed to suggest that more state money would flow their way in order to close their projected deficits. Sounds good to me.
“The MTA is grateful to Governor Spitzer for his commitment to funding public transit and our four-year financial plan,” Sander said. “We are glad that revenues came in high enough to allow us to limit the fare increase and still address $6 billion in deficits over the next four years.”