MTA fare hike to raise LIRR ticket prices

Last December residents spoke out after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved fare hikes of as much as 15 percent for the Long Island Rail Road and other increases on subway and bus lines, and river crossings. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (Dec. 19, 2012)

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The MTA board Wednesday unanimously approved fare hikes that increase the cost of a Long Island Rail Road ticket by as much as 15 percent and also makes it more expensive to ride a subway or city bus.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board, at its regular meeting in Manhattan, also approved a plan to increase tolls on MTA crossings.

The vote formalized the increases that had been proposed in October and were the subject of public hearings. The increases go into effect in March.

LIRR ticket prices will rise between 7.1 percent and 15.3 percent, depending on the ticket type and distance traveled. The increase on each individual ride would be limited to 75 cents.

The base fare on city subway and buses will climb to $2.50 from $2.25, although customers purchasing a single-ride MetroCard will be charged $2.75.

The MTA's goal is to raise $450 million in new revenue each year. Most of the money is to go toward rising employee pension and benefit expenses, officials have said.

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State Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) said commuters are already "overburdened," and he questioned the timing of the fare hike, coming right after superstorm Sandy.

"This most recent fare hike, the sixth since 2003, will only make the LIRR increasingly unaffordable and do nothing to encourage mass transit use," he said in a statement.

Board members expressed reluctance in passing the fare hike, which follows increases in 2008, 2009 and 2011. But without further aid from state government or a change in how public transportation is funded, they said they had no choice.

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"Unfortunately, after looking at everything, it's the only option we have," said board member Mitchell Pally of Stony Brook, who noted that the MTA is already planning another 7.5 percent fare increase in 2015.

Outgoing MTA Board chairman Joseph Lhota said the fare increases come as the agency continues unprecedented cost cutting that will total $800 million this year.

Some transit advocates said that while the final fare increase plan was the best of several bad options, they admonished the agency for placing too much burden on riders.

"At some point -- and for some it's already been reached -- the transit system becomes unaffordable," said Andrew Albert, the nonvoting New York City Transit Riders Council representative on the board.

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