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From the Desk of Senator Kemp Hannon: September 17, 2010

As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) prepares to hold public hearings on proposed fare and toll modifications that would be implemented on or about January 1, 2011, I would like to take this opportunity to express my staunch objection to any fare increases. Their plan includes an average increase of more than 8 percent in ticket and toll prices. Given the ways the MTA has already managed to tax the paychecks of New Yorkers, I find this measure to be completely unacceptable.

If the MTA’s plan is adopted, a Long Island resident commuting to Penn Station from Farmingdale, Bethpage, or Hicksville would see a monthly ticket increase in price by $22 (from $232 to $254). Those commuting from the Garden City and Mineola stations would notice a monthly ticket increase by $19 in price (from $204 to $223).

Additionally, the MTA will be considering several options regarding the pricing of bus and subway fares. The MTA says that the base fare will remain $2.25. The price of a monthly, unlimited-ride MetroCard is currently $89; the MTA will be looking at various pricing scenarios, including offering a new, limited ride monthly MetroCard at $99 or $104, as well as a more costly unlimited pass. A 7-day MetroCard (unlimited) is now $27, and it could go as high as $38.

Regarding LIRR commuters, it should also be noted that the MTA wants to eliminate the 2 percent discount currently available on monthly “Mail&Ride” tickets and to reduce the discount on joint “Mail&Ride” and MetroCard tickets from 4 percent to 2 percent.

When I voted against the $2.2 billion MTA bailout plan and the egregious MTA Payroll Tax in May of 2009, I said repeatedly it was an unjust attempt to drive up costs for commuters while doing nothing to reform the wasteful spending of the MTA that has led us to the fare increases now being proposed.

Adding insult to injury, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported that MTA overtime costs soared 26 percent between 2005 and 2009. MTA overtime pay rose from $468 million to $590 million, during which 3,200 workers received overtime pay equivalent to half their yearly salary. More than 140 workers doubled their salary with overtime work. Overall MTA spending has grown at an average annual rate of 7 percent during the past five years, more than twice the rate of inflation. The MTA’s outstanding debt totals about $27.5 billion, 54 percent higher than it was five years earlier.

It’s clear that the MTA won’t be able to fix these deep-seated problems by throwing more money at them. We must reform the MTA before another dollar is taken from Long Island commuters.