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MTA set to adopt higher fares, but budget gap still won't be filled

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The MTA is set to adopt sky-high fare hikes Wednesday - including $103 for a monthly MetroCard - even as officials warn the increases won't fill a widening budget gap.


"We're going to vote [for] the fare hikes," Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger said about Wednesday's board meeting. "It's very painful to everybody who uses the system."


Meanwhile, the agency is drafting cost-cutting measures that slice even deeper than the widespread service reductions already slated to happen between May and December, MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson said at Monday's authority's finance committee meeting.


At next month's MTA finance committee meeting, "we'll be talking about more difficult action that will confront us," Dellaverson said.


That's because the MTA's financial situation is turning out to be even shakier than projected in the doomsday budget adopted in December.


That budget estimated the agency would take in dramatically less cash this year, leaving a $1.2 billion hole.


Since January, however, certain tax revenues have come in about $120 million less than projected, MTA data show.


"We are perceiving this as being an accelerating decline," Dellaverson said.


The finance committee backed the hikes Monday.


The subway and bus fare is slated to climb to $2.50 on May 31; a weekly MetroCard, now $25, will climb to $31, and commuter train hikes will jump between 24% and 29% for most riders on June 1.


MTA bridge and tunnel tolls will increase July 11.


Service cuts that already have been approved include elimination of 21 local bus routes, shutting down two subway routes and imposing longer gaps between subway trains during off-peak hours.


State Assembly leaders and Gov. Paterson agreed to a rider rescue plan that would scale back the hikes to 8%, maintain service and fund capital construction and maintenance projects. The plan includes a payroll tax on businesses in the MTA's 12-county region and tolls on the city's free East and Harlem river bridges.


The plan stalled after the state Senate balked at tolls and drafted an alternative funding scheme that Paterson and others said is inadequate.


BY Glenn Blain and Pete Donohue


March 24th 2009



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