The MTA is on firmer financial footing thanks in part to $4 billion in federal aid and the worst service cuts and layoffs avoided until at least 2023.
It’ll also get another financial boost from drivers, approving 7% hikes in bridge and tunnel tolls after sparing subway, bus and commuter rail riders from fare hikes.
“The planned increase will help us maintain essential services throughout the MTA system, it’s also important to recognize that vehicle traffic has rebounded strongly since the height of the pandemic," MTA Chairman Pat Foye said Thursday.
Depending on the day, vehicle traffic can be as high as 90% of pre-pandemic levels, while as low as 30% on mass transit on average.
The 7% hike going into effect in April means tolls on the major bridges and tunnels will increase 43 cents for E-ZPass users to $6.55.
While it may sound like small change, it adds up for daily commuters, like Edgar Alvarado, whose commute takes him over the Verrazzano Bridge.
"Monthly, average about $300 bucks, a little over $300 a month," Alvarado said. "Just living on Staten Island is expensive. It’s probably, too, most expensive borough to commute to, just any small increase makes a big difference," Alvarado said.
Drivers without an E-ZPass will pay $10.17, 67 cents more to cross.
A new toll of $8.36 will be in place for drivers who have E-ZPass but the tag fails to connect.
The MTA kept the discount for Staten Islanders who drive over the Verrazano bridge, but it will go up to $2.95.
“The resident discount is a huge, huge cost savings. If they would have got rid of that I’m pretty sure a lot of people would have left Staten Island," Alvarado said.
One perk for Staten Island drivers the MTA did eliminate isa discounted $1.70 toll for carpool trips.
MTA officials said it was little used. Nevertheless, it helped Oleg Gorelik, and his family of five when they visited his parents in Brooklyn.
“It’s crucial. It’s very important to have a discount for Staten Island residents," Gorelik said. "I think Staten Islanders should not be paying for bridge at all because we are trapped on the island and now we have to pay for it.”
The increases to the tolls will bring the MTA $62 million this year, and $116 million next year.
Still, the MTA has a long way to go for financial security. It is asking Congress for another $8 billion to get through 2024 without major cuts.