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Let your voices be heard regarding proposed Long Island Rail Road fare increases and changes in levels of service.

Proposed by the MTA Board as a way to close what the MTA projects as a $1.2 billion deficit in 2009, commuters living in Zone 7, including Levittown, Wantagh and East Meadow, could see increases of up to 26 percent.

Fare and toll increases would yield a 23 percent increase.

"They increased fares last year and now they're looking for this tremendous increase this year," commented Assemblyman Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa).

After already reducing expenses and streamlining operations, MTA officials argue that they only have two remaining means within their control for closing the financial gap: raise fares and tolls and reduce service.

Fare and toll increases would yield a 23 percent increase.

In December, however, the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority Financing (Ravitch Commission) made a series of recommendations to provide new sources of revenue. If implemented, these new revenue streams could reduce the fare and crossing charge increase to a more reasonable 8 percent and largely eliminate the need for service reductions.

According to Assemblyman Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa), to make up the difference Ravitch suggested increasing revenues by putting a payroll tax on businesses in the 12 counties the MTA serves and tolls on the East River and Harlem River Bridges that are currently toll-free.

While Assemblyman David McDonough (R-Merrick) said there is no denying that the MTA will need the proper amount of funding to continue its service at or close to current levels, he believes increases should not be above the rate of inflation.

"I think it is patently unfair for residents living in the MTA service area, who do not regularly use its service, to pay taxes towards its support," he added. "Nor do I feel that tolling the East River bridges are necessarily a good idea. I am especially concerned that tolls for the bridges will be used to support the MTA instead of providing for the upkeep of the bridges themselves."

Those who take the Long Island Rail Road to work into Penn Station and back to the Wantagh or Hicksville stations will certainly be impacted by the fare increases.

A monthly ticket from Wantagh or Hicksville to Penn Station currently costs $211. The proposed fare increase for the cost of a monthly ticket from Wantagh or Hicksville, which are located in Zone 7, to Penn Station would be $267, an increase of $56.

A one-way ticket from Wantagh or Hicksville to Penn Station currently costs $7 and $14 for round trip during off-peak hours. The proposal calls for the prices of those tickets to increase to $9 and $18 respectively.

A one-way ticket to Penn Station from Wantagh or Hicksville currently costs $9.75 and $19.50 for round trip during peak hours. The proposal calls for the prices of those tickets to increase to $12.25 and $24.50 respectively, an increase of 26 percent.

The MTA is also proposing toll hikes for bridges and tunnels. The current one-way toll for cars for the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and Queens Midtown Tunnel is $5 or $4.15 for EZ Pass. The proposal calls for those one-way tolls to increase to $6.50 or $5.26 for EZ Pass.

Changes in service for the subway are also being proposed.

The increases could be lessened if the recommendations made by the Ravitch Commission, a commission appointed by the governor to seek ways to fund MTA capital projects and operating needs, are implemented.

The MTA is an autonomous board of which the state provides funding for. They received a $95 million increase last year, for a total of $2.5 billion in the state budget.

"The governor is proposing a $256 million decrease in this year's budget," Saladino explained.

This increase also comes on the heels of reports of a very high percentage of retirees going out on disability.

"The governor and the state is saying 'until you start policing your spending, don't look to us for big increases,'" Saladino said. "We need government to run as efficiently as possible in all levels in all areas and numbers like this tell us that is just not the case."

Added McDonough, "I am fundamentally opposed to the creation of yet another off-budget public authority that has the power to issue bonds, and therefore the power to ensure its continued existence."

According to an MTA spokesperson, service cuts could come sometime in the spring while fare hikes are expected to come in June if the proposals were to go forward.

Visit www.mta.info/mta/09/ for more information or to comment on these proposals.

Current Proposed Ravitch Recommendation
$211 $267 $229
Current Proposed Ravitch Recommendation
$67.50 $85.50 $73.25
Current Proposed Ravitch Recommendation
$9.75 $12.25 $10.50
Current Proposed Ravitch Recommendation
$7 $9 $7.50

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