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Most commuters will still see fare hike

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Most commuters will still see fare hike

By Marlene Naanes, amNewYork Staff Writer

November 21, 2007

 

[float=right]33884971-20184933.jpg[/float]The unexpected demise of the 25-cent fare hike might not be that generous a holiday gift after all -- the 86 percent of commuters who buy discounted cards will possibly still have to dig deeper next year.

 

While Gov. Eliot Spitzer, lagging in the polls, pushed the MTA to use a recently discovered $220 million surplus to prevent the jump to $2.25 a ride, only 14 percent of straphangers pay as they go.

 

However, the unexpected MTA revenues may also soften the blow of the increases to discounted cards, tolls and commuter-train tickets, thought it wasn't clear by exactly how much.

 

Spitzer denied that the announcement was connected to his poll numbers, which plummeted after his failed plan to give drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. "Based on the current economic climate that has so many New Yorkers feeling squeezed, it seemed only proper that this amount be returned to the riders," Spitzer said. The MTA, which proposed hikes to combat billions in projected deficits, said improved late-year financial forecast came in. The agency will release an updated fare-hike proposal in the coming weeks, and still vote on the plan Dec. 19.

 

It's unclear how Tuesday's announcement will affect the novel time-of-day pricing plan, which would charge straphangers less for riding during off-peak hours. Advocates have said that it's common for the size of hikes to decrease following public hearings. Yet anti-hike MTA board members Mitch Pally and Norman Seabrook are still voting against an increase. Pally said saving the base fare would not affect the majority of commuters.

 

"The number of people who pay the $2 fare is small and gets smaller every year," Pally said.

 

The venomous public hearings that overwhelmingly denounced a fare increase may have fueled Spitzer's announcement Tuesday. Some folks who spoke out during the public comment period felt the governor and MTA listened to their concerns while others felt officials were deaf to their pleas.

 

"It seems to me they did hear those voices and kept the increase as minimal as possible," said Robert Friedrich, who attended a seminar on the hike. Carolyn Watson, a social worker, who spoke at a Bronx hearing, disagreed.

 

"Maybe they're not going to raise the base price but they're going to raise other stuff," she said. "So they're going to get 25 cents no matter what."

 

Legislators and transit advocates praised the announcement but said it didn't go far enough. Two legislators recently backed bills that would raise $700 million for the MTA, money that they say could stop a hike.

 

"For those of us in state government who we believe have been starving the MTA, we've asked for the opportunity to find more money to completely save the fare," said Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), who has asked the MTA to hold off on the hike until after the state passes its budget.

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