I bet you didn’t see this one coming: According to transit experts and sources at the MTA, New Yorkers may be in store for a second fare hike in two years come 2009 if the authority doesn’t come up with some money stat. It would be just the second time in city history that subway fares increased in consecutive years.
Pete Donohue has more on this alarming news:
A rare back-to-back increase – along with service cuts – could be in store for commuters now that MTA number crunchers are suddenly dealing with a massive hole in next year’s budget.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s projected 2009 budget gap has ballooned – doubling or even tripling original estimates, sources said. Without new state money, officials may soon raise the spectre of increases, service cuts – or both, sources and experts said. “They don’t have many options,” one source said…
The latest projections had the MTA struggling to fill a $220 million budget hole. That number has grown to $500 million to $700 million, sources said. Part of the problem is that last year the MTA predicted that revenue from fees on real estate transactions would drop by $160 million between January and May. Instead, they plummeted by $240 million, MTA documents show.
And despite pledges to fight for more MTA funding, the state Legislature later joined Gov. Paterson in slashing expected subsidies from one state account by $40 million earlier this year. The hit repeats next year.
Meanwhile, Donohue notes that Richard Ravitch, tasked with forming a panel to figure out how to close the MTA budget gap, is still reviewing the beleaguered authority’s finances. He has yet to put together the panel.
To those who have been watching the MTA this year as tax revenues have dried up, the arrival of this news comes as no surprise. For the last few years, in fact, city officials have grown increasingly wary of how the MTA has relied on tax revenues to shore up its budget, and a few public advocates had been sounding alarming bells for a while. The state legislature, however, seems loathe to give money to the MTA, and its decision to slash subsidies is both alarming and bewildering.
So what now? Well, this story — anonymous sources, rising numbers — could be a political ploy to get those in charge of the purse strings focusing on the MTA. But the reality is that if outside money doesn’t start flowing to the authority, the fares will have to go up.
Despite Donohue’s man-on-the-street Bryan Tran’s statement — “Any higher and I will have to walk everywhere. It’s ridiculous.” — the fares just aren’t that high. The average cost-per-ride for an unlimited ride user is still well below what the $1.50 base fare we all used to pay in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
If anything, this news just drives home what Sheldon Silver and the anti-congestion pricing contingent did when they opted to let that MTA-saving measure die in committee. Perhaps it’s time to start paying closer attention to Ted Kheel after all.