So Some Are Not Too Thrilled….

Many politicians & riders are thrilled by the MTA announcing that the $2 base fare will remain unchanged through the end of 2009, others like State Senator Dean Skelos are crying foul. The Rockville Centre Republican had this to say about the MTA’s promise to keep the base fare at $2; “Gov. Spitzer gave a Thanksgiving gift to New York City subway riders at the expense of overburdened Long Island commuters.” Here is an article on the situation courtesy of Steve Ritea of Newsday:

Some of the sting of a proposed fare hike for the Long Island Rail Road and the rest of the MTA’s transit empire will be soothed by a $220-million surplus discovered literally over the past few days, officials announced yesterday.

Some officials applauded the announcement but a few questioned whether riders from the suburbs are being treated fairly when the $2 base fare for city subway and bus riders is not being hiked.

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) ripped the scenario as benefiting strap- hangers over his constituents, saying, “Gov. Spitzer gave a Thanksgiving gift to New York City subway riders at the expense of overburdened Long Island commuters.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials, at a news conference hastily called at Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Manhattan office, could not say by how much the proposed 6.5 percent increase on commuter rails would drop, pending more number-crunching.

But “the increase will be much lower,” said Spitzer, flanked by MTA Chief Elliot Sander and MTA Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger.

As the fare-hike proposal is revised, the only thing guaranteed to remain unchanged is the $2 base fare for single rides on city subways and buses, paid by about 15 percent of all riders. MetroCard and unlimited monthly pass buyers could see an increase – and that amount, too, is not yet known.

Hemmerdinger, however, said the MTA board will be looking for a plan that spreads the surplus throughout the system. “The board is very concerned about the equity and distribution of this $220 million,” he said, adding the board still plans to vote on a rate hike next month.

Sander said his staff expects to deliver a revised fare proposal in coming weeks. It was unclear whether it would be ready for a Monday meeting of the MTA’s finance committee.

Whatever plan the board approves would be likely to take effect in March, officials have said. Sander vowed those fares will remain unchanged through the end of 2009.

LIRR Commuter Council President Gerard Bringmann called preservation of the $2 base fare “window dressing,” saying few riders pay it.

The MTA’s surplus instead could be used to hold off any board vote on a fare hike until the state budget is prepared, he suggested. Some lawmakers have said they might find enough money in April to avert any increase.

Spitzer was not encouraging on that front, but promised to work with the agency. “We’d all like to have more money to spend, but we have a $4.3 billion deficit in Albany,” he said.

Sander said the MTA was not pressured by the state.

Board member and hike opponent Mitch Pally said he believes the full board will approve a lesser increase. “While the impact is less, there still is an impact, and I don’t see why we should do it now,” he added.

The additional funds are non-recurring and consist of $60 million from an expected 1 percent increase in ridership, $60 million from greater-than-expected real estate tax revenue, $60 million in unspent monies and $40 million from lesser-than-anticipated debt service costs.

I find it hard to feel sorry for people who are complaining about this being unfair. New York City riders have had to put up with far inferior service to our suburban counterparts. Plus in all honesty what are they complaining about as most of us who reside in the city are still going to get hit with increases. As I discussed here, only 14% of riders pay $2 per fare to begin with. So in theory we are still getting the raw end of the deal just like our suburban counterparts. So in the end Mr. Skelos should cut out the game of trying to look good for his constituents as it is not fooling me one bit!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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