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MTA Threatens More Fare Hikes, Service Cuts

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Officials with the Metropolitan Transporation Authority said Monday that more fare hikes and service cuts are inevitable if the city and state cannot provide additional funding.

As a result of the economic slowdown, the MTA said today that its deficit for next year has grown $575 million over the last four months to a total of $1.2 billion.

MTA officials blame a steep drop-off in state tax revenue, and the fact that the city will not come through with $187 million in funding the agency.

Transit advocates criticized the city for its lack of funding.

"The times are very tough, so the city is crying poverty," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. "But the reality is that the city has not increased most of its aid to the MTA in the last 12 years. And I don't think they're paying their fair share."

As a result, MTA officials say that fares will have to increase. The open question is how much the hike will be.

The MTA had proposed an average increase of 8 percent across the board on fares on subways and buses, as well as tolls on MTA bridges and tunnels. However, it now appears the agency will have to propose an even larger increase.

The agency hopes that the state will be able to provide it with some new revenue stream to avoid these further hikes and service cuts.

Governor David Paterson released a statement saying in part, "Addressing the fiscal challenges facing the MTA and the state over the next several years will require shared sacrifice, difficult choices, and cooperation from all funding partners. We should be open and transparent in facing these challenges and in discussing options."

Among the options being proposed is a toll on East River bridges.

Sources tell NY1 that a special state panel is still considering tolls on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Queensboro bridges.

The commission, appointed by Paterson, is expected to hand over its recommendations on new funding sources next month.

Most drivers NY1 spoke with said they were dead-set against adding any new tolls.

"I hate the idea. I hate it," said one driver. "I definitely don't think it's right, especially now the with economy; people are suffering and we don't have money to put food on our table."

"We're paying enough right now," said another. "It's just going to the city. It's like $100 before I even get into work, so I'm not for it, that's for sure."

"That's crazy," said a third. "In this economy now I think we're already hurting but, I guess they got to get the money from somewhere."

With the MTA warning that higher transit fares are on the way, taking the train – or the bus – will also take a bigger bite out of your budget.

"It's better to take the subway if there's going to be toll," said one New Yorker. "The problem is, the subway is already so packed. With another toll, it's going to be more packed."

The irony is that if the mayor's congestion pricing plan had passed in the spring, the city would have been eligible for $354 million in federal funding. That money has already been given to other cities.

Both City Hall and Albany would have to sign off on adding tolls to the East River bridges.

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