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MTA Holds Fare Hike Hearing As Questions About Sandy Remain

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TWC News: MTA Holds Fare Hike Hearing As Questions About Sandy Remain
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Speaking Wednesday after the first of several meetings to consider the size of a fare hike, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota says the transit authority will look to the federal government to take on the expense of restoring the system following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. NY1's Tina Redwine filed the following report.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority had its first of eight fare hike hearings Wednesday, and advocates said the public turnout was the lowest they'd ever seen.

Of those who did attend the hearing, 26 spoke advocates spoke out against the MTA.

Many said the MTA should have rescheduled the hearing because of Sandy's devastating effects on the city.

"They're a sadistic board that's trying to increase fare in a time when 40,000 people have just become homeless," said one speaker at the hearing.

The MTA said the meeting was planned for weeks and that 95 percent of subway service has already been restored.

"I didn't hear anyone calling for not having the election," MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said. "We have to continue. We have to move forward."

The MTA said fares and tolls must be raised by $380 million to close next year's gap.

The advocacy group Straphangers Campaign spoke out against any fare hike.

"Our chief concern is the fact that New York City transit already places the highest burden on its riders of any transit system in the country," said Gene Russianoff of Straphangers Campaign.

Sandy put even more of a burden on the MTA's balance sheets, causing a still undetermined amount of damage.

But Lhota said he's confident that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help the authority pay for the damages.

"I do feel comfortable that we will get 90 to 95 percent reimbursement with a combination of both FEMA and our insurance companies," Lhota said. "So I feel reasonably good about it. Last year, with Irene, we did receive 95 percent reimbursement."

Lhota said the MTA is working on how to better protect the region's transportation system going forward.

"It can't just be the subway system alone," he said. "I think we need to jointly with city, the state, all of the real estate owners need to come together and figure what is a comprehensive answer to future surges of water."

The next fare and toll hike hearings are on Tuesday in the Bronx and Manhattan. The aftermath of Sandy will likely be brought up there too.

The board then votes in December, and if they do decide to raise fares, they'll go into effect on or around March 1.

In addition, a Thursday session for straphangers to videotape comments about fare hikes, which was originally scheduled to be located at 3 Stone Street is relocated to 180 Livingston Street, Conference Room 4041, 4th Floor in Brooklyn. The session will take place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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