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MTA looks at increasing service, trimming fare hikes

Thomas F. Prendergast speaks during an Assembly public

Thomas F. Prendergast speaks during an Assembly public hearing in Manhattan on the MTA's finances and operations. (Jan. 11, 2013) Credit: Rory Glaeseman

The MTA will consider using $40 million in new state aid to increase service, including on the Long Island Rail Road, and reduce a planned fare increase in 2015.

The board, at the urging of some members and transit advocates, will look at using the money to restore some service cuts made in 2010 and implement new train and bus service where needed, MTA interim executive director Thomas Prendergast said yesterday.

"I've asked the staff of all the agencies to look at service proposals in terms of either restoration of services or enhancement of new services," said Prendergast, who earlier this month was nominated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to be the MTA's new chairman and chief executive. His nomination is awaiting State Senate confirmation.

The agency will also look at possibly using the new revenue to reduce a planned 7.5-percent fare increase in 2015, Prendergast said at the board meeting in Manhattan. The MTA will have a more accurate picture of its finances, and the best use of the $40 million, when it releases an updated financial plan in July, he said.

Although Prendergast did not make any commitment to putting the money toward service or fares at the MTA board meeting in Manhattan, board member Allen Capelli of Staten Island said the possibility was "music to my ears."

With the MTA achieving $700 million in annual cost cutting, and with some revenue streams doing better than expected, Capelli said it was imperative that the agency "give back to the riders some of what we took away."

The 2010 service cuts included eliminating several LIRR trains as well as some New York City bus routes and subway lines. The MTA last year restored $29 million in service, including overnight LIRR service to Brooklyn and additional trains on the Ronkonkoma line. But several of the cuts remain in place, including the elimination of weekend service on the West Hempstead line and the reduction of weekend Port Washington service from half-hourly to hourly.

Several public transportation advocacy groups Wednesday urged the MTA to restore service cuts and add service, including more westbound LIRR trains from Penn Station just after the evening rush when trains typically are crowded.

"We're very confident that there will be more service restored and added," Straphangers Campaign spokesman Gene Russianoff said. "I think something like service is what they're in business to do."

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