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Not So Fast: State Comptroller Wants MTA To Delay Fare Hike

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The state comptroller is telling the MTA to put the brakes on fare and toll hikes.

In a report released Monday, Tom DiNapoli blasts the 6.5 percent increase the MTA is seeking to balance its 2008 budget.

"We're really calling on the MTA to put commuters first, to put off their planned vote for a fare increase in December,” said DiNapoli.

Instead, DiNapoli wants the agency to wait and see what money it may get from the federal government following the study of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan.

By the end of March, the state legislature will decide on congestion pricing, which could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the system annually.

And as soon as January, DiNapoli points out, the governor will unveil his executive budget, which could include more revenue for the MTA.

"When we have those numbers, and we know better where we're at, there will still be plenty of time to consider a fare increase,” said DiNapoli. “But it really seems to be jumping the gun to do the fare increase first."

But congestion pricing revenue, if offered, wouldn't kick in till 2009 at the earliest and, even then Spitzer says, it won't solve all the MTA's budget problems.

"Simply saying, 'Aha! We got congestion pricing, therefore no fare increase.' Bad logic, bad facts, don't fall into that trap,” Spitzer said Monday.

DiNapoli's report blames the city and state in part for the MTA shortfall, saying they should increase their commitment to funding mass transit.

In fact, the MTA is asking Albany for almost $400 million more than it's due to get next year and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agrees that riders and taxpayers will likely have to help.

"You can sock it to the straphangers or you can sock it to the public, or you can let the system fall apart. The third is indefensible and I think the answer is a combination of the other two,” said Bloomberg.

But DiNapoli says the MTA isn't doing enough to tighten its own belt.

Last year, his report says, the agency reduced administrative costs by 12.3 million dollars, or just 41 percent of its targeted savings.

But the agency says, no matter how you cut it, a fare increase can't wait, saying in a statement: "Deferring the proposed 2008 fare and toll increase will only lead to more drastic increases and unacceptable service cuts in 2009."

Straphangers who spoke with NY1 Monday said they're not in favor of fare hikes.

"The subways are more terrible and now they want more money? That's unheard of. That's bad, bad news,” said one straphanger.

“I don't agree with it, of course. I think we pay enough money as it is now considering the services that we're getting,” added another.

The MTA board is set to vote on increases in December, before the governor releases the state budget.
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