Metro-North fare hikes of 7.5% around the bend
Metro-North commuters soon may start to feel the pinch in their wallets as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to introduce a plan to hike fares by 7.5 percent, Newsday has learned.
The proposal, expected to be unveiled at MTA headquarters on Monday, would not impact all riders the same. Some commuters would see increases above 7 percent and some less, but the goal is to raise total Metro-North fare revenues by 7.5 percent, according to transit sources familiar with the discussions.
The specifics of which routes will be hit hardest have not yet been worked out, the sources said.
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"We're concerned about the fact that fares are being raised by this amount, but the MTA is in a precarious financial position," said James Blair, a nonvoting MTA board member who represents the interests of Metro-North riders.
The MTA is trying to craft a delicate balance between the need to close a $450 million budget gap and keeping commuters riding the rails. To that end, the agency is seeking a fare or toll increase of about 7 percent across all its divisions, including Metro-North. The last MTA fare hike was an across-the-board 7.5 percent increase passed in 2010.
MTA officials on Wednesday confirmed that they are seeking a 7.5 percent increase on Metro-North fares but did not detail how commuters on different lines would be impacted.
A 7 percent bump this time around would hike the cost of the current $24 rush-hour round-trip ticket from Ossining to Grand Central Terminal, for example, by nearly $1.70. At 10 percent, the increase would be $2.40.
Blair said he wants to hear more before he decides whether to back a hike that would exceed the about 2 percent cost-of-living increase.
"If the agency justifies fare increases more than the cost of living, we'd have to give it appropriate consideration," Blair said.
Commuters interviewed Wednesday were not so sure.
"It's ridiculous that they're raising it," said James Indiviglio, 34, who takes the Metro-North every day from his home in New Rochelle.
However, Indiviglio said, he would reconsider his stance if service is improved.
"If they are adding more trains running, then it is worth it," Indiviglio said.
Fare and toll increases would not take effect until March, meaning that any hikes would raise only $394 million next year under the proposal, MTA officials said.
Metro-North's portion of the increase would be $26 million, and the Long Island Rail Road share would be $38 million, according to MTA officials. Bridge and tunnel increases would contribute $86 million and the New York City Transit systems -- buses and subways -- would generate $232 million. An additional $12 million would come from MTA buses and the Staten Island railway.
The proposal comes as Metro-North pursues one of the largest service expansions in its history. Some 80 trains are expected to be added this weekend to the New Haven, Harlem and Pascack Valley lines.
An additional 151 trains will be added in the spring while Metro-North trains readies a new set of conductors and engineers to replace an aging workforce coming up on the 30-year retirement mark.
Aside from a huge budget gap, the MTA is facing the potential loss of more than $1 billion in annual revenue from a tax on businesses in the MTA region. In August, a Long Island judge declared the payroll mobility tax unconstitutional. The MTA has appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.
Elizabeth Daza contributed to this story.