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MTA Leaders Testify At State Senate Hearing

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Top MTA officials testified about the agency's expenses and the subway's rat population in front of a state Senate committee Thursday, saying they're trying to keep both of them down. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

Another fare hike is on the way in less than two years, and the cost of running an expanding transit system is going up, too.

So Metropolitan Transportation Authority brass had plenty to talk about on Thursday, as they went before a state Senate Transportation Committee to discuss the agency's finances and the challenge of trying to slash hundreds of millions from a budget of more than $13 billion.

"The reason for these rising costs has nothing do with providing good service, nothing to do with discretionary costs, nothing to do with inflation and nothing to do with effective management," said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast.

So exactly what is to blame?

"It has everything to with non-discretionary costs that are largely beyond our control - health care, paratransit, energy and debt service," Prendergast said.

The MTA chairman pledged to stay away from service cuts while continuing what he called the most aggressive cost-cutting in the history of the MTA.

"I want to assure you that this work is far from over," he said.

For riders, though, there's no getting around the fare hikes planned for 2015, and two years after that, even if the MTA says it can't put a figure yet on how much more straphangers will have to pay.

"I don't know how much more the people can take," said state Senator Martin Golden of Brooklyn.

The panel also grilled the transit chiefs on subway rats.

"How we doin' with the rats in the Subway system?" said state Senator Bill Perkins of Manhattan.

One tactic: rat birth control.

They also asked about the G train tube that's been closed for months on weekends for Hurricane Sandy repairs. Two more weekends of work are scheduled, just not until December.

Committee members had a hard time remembering the names of certain parts of the system. One state senator called the RFK Bridge the JFK Bridge, then mistook the suburban Tappan Zee Bridge for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Another state senator referred to the Montague Tube as the Montauk Tube.

In the end, it's all about moving New Yorkers around, no matter the name, or even, perhaps, the cost.

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