The Answer Is Probably Yes….

The question you might ask is are the fare hearings a waste of time. This question was posed in an article written by AMNY’s Marlene Naanes in today’s paper. Here is the entire article courtesy of AMNY:

Misha Jemison says she is the face of the fare hike.

A Lehman College sophomore who works two jobs to make ends meet, Jemison says that the $76 she pays for a monthly MetroCard already stretches her budget thin. “When you add money to our fares you are hurting the middle class, the students,” she told board members at one of the eight Metropolitan Transportation Authority public hearings held on the fare hike. “We are the face of the fare hike.”

Despite riders’ testimony of the hardships of a fare increase, so far, only two board members have told amNewYork that they will vote against the hike when the board meets in December. Five of the board members did not return calls. And of the remaining nine, one declined to comment, while the other eight said that the public’s opposition hasn’t cemented their vote one way or the other.

Like Jemison, dozens of straphangers also have spoken out against the proposed increase during the public comment process that wrapped up this weekend with a forum. State and federal law requires the MTA to hold hearings for fare hikes, and the meetings are intended to offer a sounding board for riders. The comments, in turn, are supposed to impact board members’ decision making process.

“We need to be mindful of their concerns,” Dale Hemmerdinger, the new MTA board chairman, said of the public testimony. “It strikes a chord with anybody who hears them.”

Nevertheless, when asked by amNewYork about his vote, Hemmerdinger said he’s undecided. He said he is waiting for more information about the MTA budget and developments that could impact it.

The MTA has said that it needs to increase fares to deal with the billions of dollars in deficits it is facing in the next four years.

“There is more than the public hearings that go into the decision making process,” said board member, Barry Feinstein, who also is undecided about the increase. History has shown that public hearings only have been able to stop one out of eight proposed MTA fare hikes since 1981, said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney with the Straphangers Campaign.

But it’s often not a complete loss, he said, as ideas that reduce the sting of a fare increase typically surface as a result of the hearings. Russianoff pointed out that a 14-day discounted pass the MTA introduced with this year’s proposed hike was floated at hearings in the past.

Riders who turned out for the public hearings said they realized their testimony will likely not sway the board against the hike but they felt it was important to have their say.

“I told my co-workers about it [the public hearing] and they said it was like spitting in the wind, ” said Sahre Davis, a receptionist and community college student from Greenpoint who also testified at a hearing. “I’d rather spit because I know it will land somewhere.”

amNewYork polled MTA board members on how they will vote on the proposed fare increase.

Dale Hemmerdinger, Chairman; Undecided.

David Mack, Vice Chairman; Undecided.

Andrew Saul, Vice Chairman; Did not respond.

John Banks III; Undecided.

Donald Cecil; Did not respond.

Barry Feinstein; Undecided.

Jeffrey Kay; Refused to comment.

Mark Lebow; Did not respond.

Mark Page; Undecided.

Mitchell Pally; Against the hike.

Francis Powers; Undecided.

Norman Seabrook; Against the hike.

Nancy Shevell; Undecided.

Nov. 28: The MTA will present an updated financial plan to the board with possible changes to the fare increase proposal.

Dec. 19: The board votes on the MTA’s final plan.

Early 2008: If approved, a fare hike takes effect.

I happen to agree with Misha Jemison when she says she is the face of the proposed fare hike. The majority of riders will seriously be hurt with this fare hike. The cost of living is already so high & it is sure out pacing salaries so the saying every dollar counts has never rang more true. Unfortunately for riders like Misha Jemison, the MTA has the attitude of too bad it has to be done even though we have surplus money & refuse to fight for the money we rightfully deserve from each level of the government! As I have said in the past, “It Sucks To Be You Now Doesn’t It“!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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