Transit hikes coming down the pike

The MTA is set to release painful fare hike proposals Wednesday, with much of the burden potentially falling on riders who buy unlimited monthly passes, according to those briefed on the matter.

Officials are debating whether to hike fares on unlimited MetroCards from $89 to $104, or cap the number of rides at 90 a month and increase the price to $99. About 20 percent of straphangers are heavy users of the cards, getting at least $120 worth of rides a month, sources said.

Jericho James, 26, of Brooklyn, said the plans ticked him off. “Why is the MTA doing this?”

The MTA needs to raise about $413 million through a fare hike scheduled for January, and is zeroing in on riders who buy unlimited cards because they tend to have more cash. An agency study found that the average monthly card user makes $60,000 a year, while pay-per-ride straphangers averaged $33,000, transit sources said.

“I’m concerned. The unlimited cards give people a reason to use transit,” said Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign.

Other ideas being considered by the MTA include:

- Scrapping unlimited daily and 14-day passes, as only three percent of riders use them in total

- Reducing the bonuses on pay-per-ride cards by an undetermined amount

- Asking riders to pay $1 when they get a new pay-per-ride pass instead of refilling the cards, which have a 14-month shelf life

Officials are dead set against more service cuts, transit sources said. The MTA is expected to announce public hearings on the fare hike tomorrow, with the board voting on the proposals in November.

Katherine Lieb contributed to this story

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