Remember how Eliot Spitzer, during his campaign for governor, said that an MTA fare and toll hike would come about only a last resort? Well, get ready for that last resort.
News reports indicate that, when the MTA announces its proposed 2008 budget this Wednesday, fare hikes will be a part of the deal. Pete Donohue of the Daily News has more:
The MTA will put fare and toll hikes on the table next week in its preliminary 2008 budget but the agency won’t cut services next year, sources said yesterday.
The preliminary budget envisions raising hundreds of millions of dollars by charging more for buses, subways, commuter trains and Metropolitan Transportation Authority bridges and tunnels.
Sources said the plan – to be unveiled at the MTA board’s monthly meeting Wednesday – also envisions others sharing the burden of closing the gaps. It will call for administrative streamlining, better use of technology and increased revenues from state taxes.
This is of course bad news from those of us who are watching our wallets, and it does, as the News pointed out, fly in the face of Spitzer’s campaign promises. But transit advocates are at least accepting of the fare hike.
“In the face of large budget deficits, reality has to strike,” Neysa Pranger of the Straphangers Campaign told Donohue. “If that means everyone pitches in a bit more, including the riders and the state through dedicated taxes, I think that would be reasonable. But at the same time, riders can’t bear an unreasonable share, and possibly should get something in return if they are paying more.”
Gene Russianoff, also of the Straphangers Campaign, took a similar stance. “Any fare hike proposal should only be seriously considered at the same time the governor wins congestion pricing and new transit aid, which would raise billions of dollars to fix transit and take pressure off the MTA’s budget,” he said. I agree; the MTA should find a way to adequately distribute their budge deficit. It shouldn’t just be incumbent upon the riders to shoulder that burden.
Meanwhile, it seems to me that one of the ways the MTA may go about raising revenue and the fares will be through fewer discounts. Because of pay-per-ride discounts and unlimited ride passes, the average subway ride now costs around $1.30, lower than it did in 1996 before the widespread use of Metrocards. The reality is that the MTA cannot operate on such a low fare.
But if the MTA raises fares, riders are right to expect better service. The increased fares and added revenue should go toward better service – such as an F/V express option in Brooklyn – and more frequent service during off hours. On Wednesday, we’ll have a general sense of what the MTA’s revenue targets are. We won’t know about the nitty gritty of the fare hikes for a while. But be prepared for one; it seems inevitable.