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Updated Four-Year MTA Budget Plan Pairs Service Improvements With Looming Fare Hikes

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TWC News: Updated Four-Year MTA Budget Plan Pairs Service Improvements With Looming Fare Hikes
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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has good news and bad news for bus and subway riders, as millions of dollars in service improvements will be paired with looming fare hikes. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

Don't get too attached to that $2.50 fare.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is set to hit straphangers with fare hikes in 2015 and again two years later, as rising long-term debt payments and soaring pension and health care expenses force higher prices per ride.

"We need to have have to have regular, predictable fare and toll increases," said Robert Foran, chief financial officer of the MTA.

That sharp reminder of the previously announced increases came Wednesday, when the MTA updated its four-year budget plan, which would include no raises for its unions.

It followed good news for riders earlier this week, when the MTA committed to $18 million in improvements to bus and subway service and another $11 million for cleaner stations.

"You're only as good as your last rush hour. You're only as good as your last storm. But each and every day, the customers measure our experience and how well we're doing," said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast.

While workers won't like the MTA's plans to go three years without raises, the agency is also making a pledge to its riders.

"Our budgets will not include any budget-driven service cuts since those that we had to enact in 2010," Foran said.

Riders had been lobbying for service restorations since $93 million in so-called doomsday cuts to service were made three years ago.

The plan to hit straphangers with fare increases every two years has been in place since 2009, but it won't be clear just how much of a fare bump there will be this time around until 2015 approaches.

Many commuters weren't thrilled.

"They keep on going up, the fare," said one. "I don't think it's fair for people poor like me."

"I'm not happy about it," said another.

Others were more understanding.

"If the subway's faster and better and cleaner, then I don't mind," said one.

"This is a great service," said another. "If it goes up by a couple of cents, you're getting a better service. So be it."

With mega-projects like the 7 train extension, East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway set to be completed this decade, MTA operating expenses are about to go up, too.

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