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M.T.A. to Propose New Fare Increases
New Yorkers will soon be asked to pay more to ride trains and buses that just weeks ago suffered the severest service cuts in a generation. The series of fare increases will be unveiled on Wednesday by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
By Jan. 1, when the increases would take effect, the heaviest users of the city’s subways and buses could be paying as much as $104 instead of $89 for a monthly system pass. Drivers who use E-ZPass on many of the city’s tunnels and bridges would pay 10 percent more per trip, and rail commuters could face the frustration of longer lines to buy tickets.
The unlimited subway and bus MetroCard, which pushed ridership to record levels after its introduction in the 1990s and revolutionized the way New Yorkers imagine their transit system, could also be on the way out. One proposal would place limits on how many rides could be taken on monthly and weekly passes.
Officials at the authority say they can avoid additional service cuts this year as a result of layoffs and cost-cutting. And instead of an across-the-board fare increase, as in years past, the authority would make a variety of smaller tweaks to the myriad ticket types available.
But the heaviest burden may be placed on the third of subway passengers who use 30-day passes. This group will end up with one of two evils: spending $99 for a monthly pass that would be limited to 90 rides or paying $104 for an unlimited pass. Officials said that they would solicit feedback from the public before making a decision.
Both proposals will be on the table on Wednesday as the authority’s board weighs a set of actions that would affect nearly every user of the region’s buses, subways, railroads and bridges. The proposals must still be debated at public hearings and will not face a final vote until October. But many of the bleak plans laid out by the authority earlier this year have since come to pass.
The agency lost a significant amount of state money last fall, and tax revenues intended to finance mass transit have fallen far short of projections, leading to the elimination of two subway lines and dozens of bus routes last month.
So barring a governmental miracle — rare these days in
The authority also plans to eliminate one of the small, quiet pleasures of commuting life: that moment of discovering an old spare railroad ticket in one’s wallet. Under the change, those old tickets would be worthless, expiring after a week instead of the current six months for one-way tickets and after three months instead of a year for the popular 10-trip ticket packs.
William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, a riders’ advocacy group, predicted that the changes would create more demand for ticket purchases inside stations, which could delay passengers.
“You buy a ticket in advance, just to have it, because at some point you’re going to be running to a train,” Mr. Henderson said. “Now you’re going to have longer lines at the ticket windows and longer lines at the machines.”
The commuter rails would also tack on a $15 fee for ticket refunds, a sum that would in most cases be larger than the refund itself. Officials said the idea was to discourage passengers from improperly retrieving their fares in the event a conductor neglected to take their ticket.
Drivers who use E-ZPass on many of the region’s tunnels and bridges would be charged 10 percent more per trip, raising the cost on most crossings to $5.04 from $4.57.
About a third of bus and subway riders purchase a few MetroCard rides at a time, in order to receive a discount for buying in bulk. That discount would be reduced by about 7 percent, so riders would pay about $2.10 a ride, instead of $1.96, officials said. Riders would also be required to buy $10 worth of tickets to earn the discount, rather than $8.
The fare increase is expected to save $413 million in 2011, according to the authority. The next increase is not scheduled until 2013, but officials warned that a worsening in the economy, or a lack of concessions from labor unions, could again place the authority in a financial bind.
Mr. Henderson, of the riders’ group, said that the authority knew it could raise fares on subway passes because riders had few options. “As long as the fare stays within some envelope of reasonableness, they’re going to buy the card,” he said.