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Audit Of MTA Finds Improved Financial Outlook

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The state Comptroller says the next round of MTA fare and toll increases might not have to be as severe as the most recent hikes, thanks to an improvement in the transit agency's financial outlook. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

Bus and subway fares are set to go up again in a year and a half, and again two years after that. Same for the tolls at Metropolitan Transportation Authority bridges and tunnels.

But a new analysis of the agency's budget by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says they don't have to go up as much as in past years because the MTA has cut expenses while taking in substantially more revenue, due to an improving economy.

"There are opportunities to reduce the size of the planned increase. That's something that should be explored," said Deputy State Comptroller Ken Bleiwas. "Funding the capital program and improving services is critically important, but also, holding down the planned fare increase."

Riders' advocates couldn't agree more.

"The burden on riders has been increasing and increasing," said Gene Russianoff of Straphangers Campaign. "We feel strongly the comptroller is right."

The MTA said it can't put a figure on the fare and toll hikes just yet.

"Our goal is to keep fare and toll increases in the future to the absolute lowest level possible," said MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan.

The report also warns that it could be tough for the MTA to get $26 billion in state and especially federal subsidies for its next capital plan, which could affect prospects for the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway.

"Aid from the federal government is likely to be less in the future than it has been in recent years, so funding that program's going to be a difficult challenge," Bleiwas said.

The report points out that overtime costs hit a record $681 million last year, with $42 million of that attributable to weather-related events such as Hurricane Sandy. With OT spending up more than $70 million of what was budgeted in the first half of 2013, the report says it could be another record year.

The MTA said it's too early to project what its overtime costs will end up being.

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