Subway and bus riders got a bit of bad news Wednesday: fares are going up.
The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to keep the base subway fare at $2.75, but opted to eliminate the pay-per-ride Metro Card bonus—the 5 percent bump that’s added to the card when someone pays $5.50 or more.
“This is painful, but we had to do it,” said Fernando Ferrer, the MTA board acting chairman.
The news was not well received by subway riders, who will have to dig deeper in their pockets beginning April 21rst.
“Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?” asked Ase Kokolo as he entered the 34 Street Penn Station. “This is outrageous.”
But the bonuses are not the only thing that is soon to become a good old memory for riders: the agency also decided to increase the cost of the 30-Day subway pass by 5 percent, hiking it from $121 to $127. The weekly pass will also go up by a dollar to $33 from $32.
“Why would they do that? Isn’t that backwards? I don´t think that is a good idea. That will cause more problems down in the subways,” said Anthony McClean, a cook who rides the subway every day to go to work.
The agency has an operating deficit of more than $500 million in 2020, and the deficit is estimated to reach $1 billion in three more years.
“I mean it’s not bad, not a bad idea for income for New York, but not for the people that can´t afford it,” said another commuter Anthony Beltran.
Buses, tunnels and bridges will also see an increase fare in the next few weeks. The approved new tolls will take effect by March 31st. Using one of the five major MTA crossings will cost $6.12 with E-ZPass, 36 cents more than today.
Wednesday’s vote on the new proposal did not go entirely smoothly. MTA board member Mitchell H. Pally, representing Suffolk County in Long Island, made a motion to defer the commuter railroad fair increase, but failed. “It´s important to find out from my commuters whether they would like an alternative plan,” said Pally.
And Walter Shaw, a regular commuter from the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), surely would have preferred another solution. The MTA also approved an increase of 4 percent to the base fare for for the LIRR. According to Shaw, the hike is not justified. “We need more trains and more services,” he said.
The changes approved this Wednesday, according to Ferrer, the MTA chair, will bring a yearly revenue of $336 million. But “while this is important, let me stress it is not enough to fund our capital program or close our operating deficits,” said Ferrer, who also strongly defended the controversial plan proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to raise money for the New York subway by charging cars a fee to drive into congested areas in Manhattan.
The congestion pricing plan, proposed by Cuomo, was recently also supported by De Blasio, one of the few areas of agreement between the two political rivals. While the lawmakers reflect on whether to approve the budget to boost this plan, Cuomo has warned that a rejection could provoke a 30 percent subway fare hike.
In addition to the congestion pricing plan, Cuomo´s proposal to save the failing subway, will include taxes on legal marijuana, if the proposal passes, and internet sales.
The plan that is expected to generate around $22 billions in new revenue for the transit system “will help us enormously,” said Ferrer.
The proposal for congestion pricing, however, generated controversy Wednesday in Long Island, where a group of state senators released a statement to express their concern about the plan that will charge Long Island residents who commute into Manhattan.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that any congestion pricing plan is not funded on our backs without substantial benefit,” said the statement proposed by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart -Cousins and the Long Island Senate delegation.