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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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MTA Hikes Coming

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) fare hikes will become a reality effective June 17 on the LIRR, June 28 on subways and buses, and July 12 on the MTA’s bridges and tunnels.

The MTA’s board, in an odd move even for them, congratulated itself for raising fares 10 percent, issuing a press release on May 11 with this headline: MTA Board Approves Reduced Fare and Toll Increase. Well, technically that’s correct. The MTA board voted to increase fares and tolls upwards of 20-plus percent earlier this year but cut that figure in half after the state Legislature imposed a new MTA payroll tax on employers in the 12 downstate counties where the MTA operates while raising other state fees, too.

 

Long Islanders who commute into Manhattan will notice the change in July, as the monthly LIRR ticket fee rises to $204 from $185 in western Nassau (zone 4) and to $232 from $211 in central Nassau (zone 7). I’m in zone 4 and take comfort in knowing that my $19, along with the $19 coming from 18,000-plus other LIRR commuters in my zone, is being set aside for former MTA executive director Eliot Sander’s $350,000 farewell compensation package. Sander resigned effective May 22 after a tenure that was praised by a press corps Sander clearly cultivated during his time in office. Many of these same pundits had to be surprised upon learning that Sander’s employment agreement called for him to receive a year’s salary as a parting gift. Even resignations are expensive at the MTA.

Now, to pay for this and other ongoing MTA misadventures, New York City subway and Long Island Bus riders, who currently pay $2 per trip, will effective June 28 need $2.25 to take that same journey. MTA tunnels and bridges, such as the Throgs Neck and Bronx-Whitestone, will cost an E-Z pass user $4.57 per crossing starting on July 12. Today, the E-Z pass fee for those same bridges is $4.15. The cash fares for these bridge and tunnel tolls are rising to $5.50 per trip from $5.

Being that Staten Islanders periodically elect Republicans to the state Legislature, they must also pay a price. The MTA’s board hiked the round-trip fare for an E-Z pass user on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to $9.14 from $8.30. Prefer cash when crossing the Verrazano? It’ll set you back $11 for a round-trip, rather than the current $10.

The state Legislature adopted two of the three major components of the Ravitch Commission’s plan for righting the MTA’s financial ship: the imposition of a payroll tax and raising fares. The third major piece of the Ravitch proposal called for generating $600 million annually by installing cashless tolls on 13 city-owned crossings into Manhattan that do not currently charge drivers. Those 12 bridges and one viaduct will be toll-free so long as New York City’s Democrats, who today control the state’s executive and legislative branches, call all the shots in Albany. If you live outside the five boroughs, and believe city residents should pay their fair share for mass transit, you can start changing Albany’s balance of power as early as the November 2010 state elections.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net