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MTA board delays vote on fare hikes until February

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The agency’s board want to look at alternatives to fare increases

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Commuters will have to wait another month to find out what will happen with the MTA’s long-planned fare hikes. The agency’s board agreed today to table a vote on any potential fare increases until February, in order to give its members more time to look at alternative ways of raising much-needed revenue without burdening straphangers.

“I’m concerned that w’re making a decision today when we need to be a little slower, a little more thoughtful, and need to consider a few more options,” said board member Peter Ward, who is one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointees. He proposed tabling the vote until next month’s meeting, which was swiftly approved by the rest of the board.

The MTA had proposed two options for increasing New York City transit fares: One would raise the base fare to $3 (and $3.25 for a single-ride ticket) while implementing smaller increases on unlimited passes; the other would leave the base fare at its current $2.75, but would see steeper hikes on monthly unlimited passes and would eliminate the MetroCard bonus. Two options for increases on commuter rail and bridge and tunnel tolls are also on the table.

During the meeting, nearly two dozen members of the public testified, with many railing against fare hikes that would unfairly burden commuters, particularly lower-income riders and those who use Access-a-Ride. A rep for TransitCenter said it was “wildly unfair” to ask disabled riders to pay more for service that is woefully inadequate—many subway stations are not accessible to those in wheelchairs, and AAR itself is “plagued with issues,” as a 2018 CityLimits report put it.

In recent days, there have been growing calls to hold off on any fare increases—including from Cuomo himself, who told the New York Times that he has “no faith in what they [the MTA] say” when it comes to fare hikes.

Larry Schwartz, the chair of the MTA’s finance committee and a former Cuomo aide, has suggested that any fare increases should be tied to performance metrics, though at Thursday’s meeting, he admitted that his attempts to do so recently were “in vain.” He suggested creating a working group to look at “other revenue alternatives” that aren’t necessarily tied to fare hikes, “with the priority being riders first, budget second.”

The MTA estimates that this fare hike would bring in an additional $316 million in revenue. The agency is currently facing the prospect of carrying $1 billion in debt by 2022.