We know many commuters are unhappy about the proposed fare and toll increases announced Monday, but what about our local leaders who play a role in how the MTA is funded?
Carl V. Wortendyke, pictured here, is a Rockland resident who shares a vote on the MTA board with reps from Orange and Dutchess. He said the MTA is fighting to get dedicated transit funds back from the state. An estimated $1.5 billion a year essentially disappeared from the MTA budget after the recession hit in 2008, he said.
The agency doesn’t want to raise fares, but “our hands are kind of tied,” Wortendyke told The Journal News. “We’re all trying to do our best to find other funding; it’s difficult to find.”
Under the plan the MTA presented Monday, Metro-North ticket prices would rise 8 to 9 percent. Metro-North fares also increased an average of about 8 to 9 percent last year. When the state approved a bailout for the MTA in 2009, the agreement included scheduled fare increases. The next one is planned for March 2013, followed by another in 2015.
Assemblyman George Latimer (D-Rye) said a 9 percent increase on a $200 monthly Metro-North ticket is comparable to a 5 percent hike on a local government tax bill of $4,000.
“At first blush, these rates are going to impact our people in the suburbs very negatively, and I am deeply concerned,” he said.
He also noted that “if you look at the federal government’s lack of support for mass transit, it’s shameful… you can barely get a transit bill through the House of Representatives and that is arguably the single biggest missing piece in all of this.”
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) said MTA officials “need to go to the drawing board and look at their budget again with a goal toward lowering that increase.”
Not everyone views the proposed Metro-North fare hikes as too high, however.
Jonathan Ballan, Westchester’s voting member on the MTA board, said “my initial response is that Metro-North is being treated very fairly in the context of what’s going on,” noting that all the MTA divisions are facing fare and toll increases.
The MTA is holding a series of public hearings to discuss the proposals. As I reported today, commuters who use the MTA’s bridges and tunnels will also be socked with increases next year, in addition to subway and bus riders.
(Journal News file photo)