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Queens Chronicle

MTA riders want lower fare hike, union deals

Queens commuters say increase in ’15 will sting, but transit workers need raises

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 1:47 am, Thu Feb 13, 2014.

An unscientific survey of Queens transit riders finds that while none are happy with the prospect of bus and train fare hikes in 2015, they also don’t think employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should be forced to go without at least a small raise at the end of current contract negotiations.

MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast last week told state officials that a 4 percent fare increase planned for next year could balloon to 12 percent, including a $2.75 fare for buses and subways should the agency be forced to give pay raises to the 62 unions now working on expired contracts.

The last increase took place last March, when the fare went from $2.25 to $2.50.

“I’m sick of paying increases, especially since the last one was so recent,” Laura Siciliano-Rosen of Jackson Heights said. “I don’t know what money the MTA has, but I don’t think the workers should get nothing. It shouldn’t be ‘either-or.’”

Rambersaud Ramsadeen of Queens Village said he only usually takes buses on days like Tuesday when bad weather can affect roads and traffic.

Ramsadeen also said he might be willing to dig a little deeper if a fare hike that is coming anyway could pay for raises.

“Why not?” he asked at the Merrick Boulevard bus depot in Jamaica. “An increase will hurt, and the riders aren’t getting raises. But they shouldn’t be able to get an increase and have the workers get nothing.”

Isaac Mirzayev of Forest Hills also knows any fare hike will sting, and should be held to the minimum level possible.

“But workers should be paid,” he said.

Nikki Owens of South Jamaica was not optimistic, particularly when asked about her opinion.

“I don’t think it matters,” she said waiting for the 7 Train in Flushing. “They’re going to raise the fare anyway.”

The MTA’s current operating budget is predicated on zero-percent employee raises over three years.

Prendergast has said repeatedly that any salary increases must be tied to union concessions on things like benefit contributions and productivity savings ever since his appointment was approved by the state Senate last summer.

The MTA Police union and the MTA board last month ratified a new contract that media reports said includes retroactive raises and runs into 2017. Published reports have quoted MTA officials as saying the union agreed to unspecified offsets.

Prendergast’s comments to the Legislature were spurred largely by the recent recommendations of a federal arbitration panel that issued a report on the three-year-old contract impasse between the MTA and its Long Island Rail Road unions.

The panel, saying that the MTA has been doing better financially in recent years, said the agency could afford raises of about 2.8 percent over six years with employees kicking in more for their benefits package.

Multiple sources have said the LIRR unions could eventually go out on strike as early as this summer.

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