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MTA proposes monthly LIRR ticket hike of about 9%

A subway rider passes her Metrocard through a

A subway rider passes her Metrocard through a reader at Grand Central station. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority that controls the subway system passed a proposed overall fare hike to help close a $1.2-billion budget gap today. The hike will raise fares to $2.50, from $2.00, for a single ride and $103, from $81, for a 30 day MetroCard. (March 25, 2009) Credit: Getty Images

LIRR commuters could pay as much as $37 more for a monthly train ticket under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's fare hike proposal detailed Monday.

The MTA plan, to go into effect next year, also increases one-way LIRR tickets by at least 75 cents, hikes Metro-North Railroad and city subway fares, and boosts bridge and tunnel tolls.

The agency's goal is to increase overall fare revenue by about 7 percent, but Long Island Rail Road tickets will go up by 8.2 to 9.3 percent.

Mineola commuters will see a monthly ticket jump from $223 to $242. For Hicksville customers, it will go from $254 to $276. And for Babylon riders, the monthly fare will increase from $299 to $325. Commuters from stations farthest east, such as Montauk and Greenport, will pay an additional $37 for monthly tickets.

LIRR customers would also see the cost of a City Ticket and of a Family Fare Ticket rise by 25 cents.

Public hearings on the proposal, including one on Long Island, are scheduled for next month. The MTA board will vote on a plan in December. If approved, the new fares would take effect in March.

For Chris Krieb, 24, of Sea Cliff, who said he commutes five days a week on the LIRR and the subway, the fare increases could cost an additional $43 a month.

"It's going to hurt me, for sure," Krieb, a New York Film Academy student, said while waiting for his train at Penn Station Monday. "I can barely, barely afford what it is now."

The MTA is proposing several options to hike subway and bus fares. The increases vary, depending on whether the agency decides to keep the base MetroCard fare at $2.25 or increase it to $2.50, and whether it keeps the 7 percent discount for MetroCard purchases, reduces it or eliminates it.

Under the different proposals, the price of an unlimited monthly MetroCard, which now costs $104, would go up a minimum of $5 or a maximum of $21 -- a 20 percent increase.

Drivers will also be affected by the MTA's plan. Cash tolls will increase by $1 on the major river crossings -- including the Midtown Tunnel and Throgs Neck Bridge -- from $6.50 to $7.50. E-ZPass users will see fares go from $4.80 to $5.30.

If approved, the increases will mark the fourth time the MTA has hiked fares and tolls since 2008. The agency has plans for another 7.5-percent fare revenue increase in 2015.

MTA officials said the March increase will generate $450 million a year in revenue needed to hold down soaring costs that the agency cannot control, such as pensions, employee benefits and fuel.

"What's important to understand in this whole process is that the MTA is doing everything it can to try to make itself as efficient and effective as possible," MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said. "We understand that we are here to serve our riders. . . . We want to keep the fare increases limited as much as possible."

Mark Epstein, chairman of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council, said in a statement that the group "recognizes the financial difficulties that the MTA faces, but these issues cannot be resolved on the backs of commuters."

The fare hike actually discourages the use of the LIRR, the council statement said.

"These increases would be devastating to workers who, more than ever, need affordable public transportation to reach their places of employment," Epstein said in the statement.

Unlike when LIRR fares were last raised last year, the new plan does not generate new revenue by reducing the validity periods of tickets or increasing other fees, such as onboard purchase penalties or ticket refund fees.

"I don't like gimmickry," said Lhota, who favored a "pretty straightforward and cut and dry" increase for LIRR riders. "It's the best way to deal with it."


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