Newly-revealed details about the MTA's so-called “Doomsday Budget,” which will be unveiled Thursday at the agency's budget meeting, show that mass transit will become even more expensive for New Yorkers.
According to sources close to the MTA's budget process, the agency is considering raising fare and toll revenue by 23 percent, nearly three times as high as the eight percent that had originally been talked about.
"It's going to be very tough," said MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot "Lee" Sander. "It's going to be very difficult."
The MTA has some flexibility as to how an increase is allocated. It can apply to pay-per-ride customers or discounted MetroCards or both.
To help raise that revenue, sources say the MTA is looking at raising the $2 base MetroCard fare to as much as $3.
The agency is also looking to raise the Access-a-Ride fares to $4, from the current $2 fare, and to raise express bus fares from $5 to $7.50. The combined ridership of both services is more than 100,000 a day.
Disabled advocates say that would be unfair, considering most of the subway system is inaccessible to them.
"I see it as almost a tax on people with disabilities," said Michael Harris of the Disabled Rider Coalition. "I think that it's a shame that they've singled out the community that's least served by their system."
Express bus riders were also dismayed at the proposed hikes.
"I don't know what's going on. I don't know if I can afford it or not. I don't know how I'm going to get back and forth from work," said a rider.
"It's a lot, because I don't have any other choice, but to take the express bus. I don't have a train near where I am. So that's a lot for people who don't have any other option," said another.
"I wish they wouldn't have to do that. But what can you do? They have a deficit. But they should find other ways to close the deficit, maybe get more money from the government," said a third.
Other proposals on the table include eliminating whole subway lines – namely the W and the Z – along with overnight bus service on dozens of routes.
NY1 has learned that includes 13 routes in Manhattan: the M1, 2, 16, 22, 23, 42, 50, 66, 79, 96, 102, 103 and 104.
Those routes have been selected because of low ridership and available alternatives. Other routes will be eliminated altogether.
At the Rockefeller Center subway station Wednesday morning, transit advocates handed out leaflets and urged rush-hour commuters to sign a petition to Albany.
"It's a bad time to be asking the state and the city to help out, it’s difficult," said Gene Russianoff of Straphangers Campaign. "Everybody has to chip in. Riders are probably going to pay a higher fare, there may be service cuts, but the entire burden shouldn't be shouldered by the public."
Advocates want the state to bail out the MTA with some kind of cash infusion to offset the agency's $1.2 billion deficit.
Elected officials say Albany lawmakers need to shift the burden away from those who can least afford to pay more.
"I quite frankly don't know what's going on in Albany. I'm not there any more," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. " But clearly they've got to wake up and think bigger and bolder. And I believe very strongly that it's time to reinstate the commuter tax, earmark it to mass transit, because this kind of transit increase is going to be a tipping point for people to flee this city."
Governor David Paterson said Wednesday that while he will do everything he can to prevent the hikes and cuts, the state has its own budget problems
"We're going to look at it, but we have a lot of difficult choices we're going to have to make as New Yorkers over the next few years," said Paterson.
The mayor said the city is facing the same dilemma.
"As you know, the state does not have money to put into the MTA, nor does the city," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "So they're going to have to find another ways to do it."
While there is certainly no promise of any government bailout, Paterson has appointed an independent commission headed by former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch to come up with new ways of funding the MTA.
Its report is due December 5th, and if the Legislature acts on its recommendations, the fare hikes and service cuts now being proposed could be scaled back.