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Queens Chronicle

Lhota backs MTA fare hike schedule

Future chairman asserts that regular increases are better than large spikes

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Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:12 pm, Thu Dec 1, 2011.

Joseph Lhota’s honeymoon with riders on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority lasted less than a week, with the future chairman coming out in support of scheduled fare increases in 2013 and 2015.

Speaking before the MTA Board on Wednesday, Lhota said he supports the current plan to increase fare revenue by 7.5 percent every two years, rather than going four or five years with no increase and slamming riders with a large spike.

Numerous published reports also quoted Lhota saying that a regular, rational fare schedule will be better understood by the public.

Gene Russianoff, staff attorney and chef spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, said Friday that he was not surprised.

“The MTA set this in the four-year budget plan beginning in 2011,” Russianoff said. “They originally put in three fare hikes. They say it is better for them and better for riders if there are predictable, periodic and relatively modest increases every two years as part of how they plan to survive.”

The current fares of $2.25 for MetroCard use of subways and buses have been in effect since June 2009, as have fares for things like one, seven, 14 and 30-day MetroCards. The single-ride MetroCard went to $2.50 on Dec. 30, 2010.

The scheduled, gradual increases would not be without precedent.

There was a 10-cent increase in 1970, bringing a ride to 30 cents, followed by a nickel hike in 1972.

The hike from 35 cents to 50 cents on Sept. 1, 1975 was the only increase between Jan. 1, 1972 and June 29, 1980, when it went to 60 cents.

From there regular increases came on July 1981 (15 cents); January 1984 (15 cents); and January 1986 (10 cents) which caused fares to hit the $1 level for the first time.

There also were semi-regular increases in January 1990 (15 cents to $1.15); January 1992 (10 cents) and November 1995 (25 cents to $1.50).

That fare lasted another eight years before a 50-cent, 33-percent hike to $2 in May 2003, the very kind of spike Lhota said he wants to avoid.

But Russianoff said automatic fare hikes, every two years without fail, are a disadvantage to the city.

“I’m not surprised that Lhota feels that way,” he said. “But I would want a system based on actual merits of what the MTA does or does not need to do at the moment.”

Russianoff also said accepting automatic hikes does not encourage the MTA to become more efficient “because they are guaranteed to have a fare hike built in,” he said. “And the only ones who get to vote on it are the members of the MTA Board of Directors; not elected officials. Officials can rant and rave, but they can’t stop it.”

Nor can riders.

At the 179th Street subway station in Jamaica on Friday, Denenne Simon of Jamaica simple rolled his eyes at the mere mention of fare hikes, no matter how or when they are implemented.

“I take the F or the E train to work every day,” Simon said. “It doesn’t make a difference what we say. They’re going to do what they want anyway.”

Russianoff said the 7.5 percent figure is a bit deceptive without a little knowledge of the budgeting process.

He said the $2.25 subway and bus fares, for example, would not be increased 3 cents apiece. Instead, fares, tolls, MetroCards and the like all would adjusted every two years to combine to increase revenue by the 7.5 percent, or about $400 million.

There are some variables. The MTA initially based its budget on the theory that it would give all employees no raises for three years.

Union leaders like John Samuelsen, president of of Transit Works Union Local 100, have called that a non-starter. Samuelsen, who represents subway workers, has a contract that expires in January. He has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he expects pay raises for his rank and file.

The history of transit fares

• $0.05 (1904 – 1948)

• $0.10 (1948 – 1953)

• $0.15 (1953 – 1966)

• $0.20 (1966 – Dec. 31, 1969)

• $0.30 (Jan. 1, 1970 – Dec. 31, 1971)

• $0.35 (Jan. 1, 1972 – Aug. 31, 1975) (MSBA/LI Bus from 1973)

• $0.50 (Sept. 1, 1975 – June 28, 1980)

• $0.60 (June 29, 1980 – July 3, 1981)

• $0.75 (July 4, 1981 – Dec. 31, 1983)

• $0.90 (Jan. 1, 1984 – Dec. 31, 1985)

• $1.00 (Jan. 1, 1986 – Dec. 31, 1989)

• $1.15 (Jan. 1, 1990 – Dec. 31, 1991)

• $1.25 (Jan. 1, 1992 – Nov. 11, 1995)

• $1.50 (Nov. 12, 1995 – May 3, 2003)

• $2.00 (May 4, 2003 – June 27, 2009)

• $2.25 (June 28, 2009 – Dec. 29, 2010)

• $2.25 (base fare), $2.50 (SingleRide ticket) (Dec. 30,2010 –)

Source: MTA

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