I was sitting around finishing up my dinner from Wednesday night. As I was doing this, I decided to flip through Wednesday’s edition of the New York Daily News again. When I flipped through it, I came across an article written by their transit beat reporter Pete Donohue. The article shares the paper’s feeling on the proposed fare hike that seems to be a certainty come the first quarter of 2008 & how it is launching a “Halt The Hike” campaign in hopes of changing the MTA’s mind. Here is the entire article:
The MTA is looking at a year-end budget surplus of more than $400 million.
Seven million daily subway and bus riders and hundreds of thousands of suburban rail commuters have been hit with two hefty fare hikes since 2003.
Gov. Spitzer has repeatedly said fare and toll increases should be a “last resort,” and a growing number of state legislators are dead set against squeezing riders for more money.
Yet the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to begin imposing a new series of fare and toll hikes in February.
Many straphangers and lawmakers want at least to delay any increases – and the Daily News agrees. That’s why The News today is launching a “Halt the Hike” campaign. Its goal: Slam the brakes on the rush to hike the fares.
Some other way must be found to raise the money – one that doesn’t pick the pockets of straphangers.
Transit experts and fiscal watchdogs agree the MTA is facing a fiscal crisis after years of inadequate funding by state and local governments.
A growing chorus in the state Legislature is urging MTA CEO Elliot Sander and the MTA board to delay fare and toll increases until April 15, said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester). That would allow Albany to find more money for the MTA during state budget talks.
“April 15 gives us time to move government to the role it ought to be in – as the institution that keeps the fare affordable,” he said.
Brodsky said he’ll be at the MTA board meeting today to make the case.
The MTA’s preliminary 2008 budget envisions raising an additional $262 million next year through higher fares for subways, buses and commuter trains operated by the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North. Drivers using MTA bridges and tunnels also would pay more.
“Surely Gov. Spitzer and state legislators can shift priorities to fill the MTA’s gap, which is about two-tenths of 1% of the state’s $121 billion budget,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “After nearly a dozen years in the cold, it’s high time for the state to come up with a permanent and recurring [funding] source.”
With debt service and pension costs rising, the MTA says it’s facing a $1.4 billion deficit in 2009. And it only gets worse, the agency says.
“Despite $6 billion in deficits over the next four years, we’ve proposed a financial plan that invests in the future and actually increases service to meet growing demand,” said MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin. “That requires both an enormous lift from Albany and cost-of-living increases from our customers.”
Soffin said delaying the increases would mean $100 million in lost revenue.
Transit advocates note the MTA expects to end this year with a $317 million surplus, and that doesn’t include recent data that show real estate tax revenues $60 million higher than previously forecast, fare and toll revenues up $49 million and health expenses down $25 million.
There are also other unused funds, including $350 million the MTA has set aside to prepurchase fuel and to pay pension liabilities this year, plus $50 million NYC Transit set aside for a stalled painting program.
“We should not raise fares until all options are exhausted, and that includes aid from the state,” said state Sen. John Sabini (D-Queens), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee. “It would be good if we got some leadership from the governor on this, and I think he’s prepared to give some.”
I strongly agree with the position that the paper is taking. Unfortunately as right as they & many others are about the fare hike needing to be put on hold, I don’t see the MTA postponing it in any shape or form. The upcoming public hearings are nothing but a formality…..