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Metro-North fare hike hits riders from Hudson Valley's outer edges hard

Karina Murski, of Manhattan, waits for the New

Karina Murski, of Manhattan, waits for the New York City-bound train at the White Plains Metro-North station. (Jan. 25, 2013) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

With Metro-North fare hikes going into effect Friday, riders from stations on the outer edges of the Hudson Valley are trying to figure out how they'll come up with hundreds of dollars that have been added to their annual commuting tab.

"I'm just going to have to figure it out and cut out the little things," said Jim McDonald, an accountant from Rye Brook.

Commuters like McDonald, who travel from Port Chester to Grand Central on the New Haven line, will be hit with an annual $192 bump, as Metro-North's monthly pass jumps to $263 from its current $247.

A monthly ride on the Port Jervis Line from Sloatsburg to Penn Station will jump from $330 to $353 for an annual hike of $276.

Peekskill's commuters to New York City on the Hudson Line will see their monthly Metro-North bill jump from $315 to $343, which over 12 months translates into a $336 annual increase.

Along the Pascack Valley Line, a ride from Spring Valley to Penn Station will increase $216 annually through a monthly increase to $288 from the current $270.

The most expensive monthly pass will be for a Harlem Line ride from Wassaic to Grand Central, which will hit $500, up from the current $455, for an annual hike of $540.

The fare increases vary based on a distance plan that charges some commuters more, others less depending on the route they take.

"It's unfair," said Julia Hernandez of Port Chester, who complained that the hikes are outpacing wage increases, forcing riders like her to dig deeper and deeper into savings.

For her part, Hernandez, a cardiovascular technician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said she'll pay for the hike by decreasing her contribution to her 401(k) plan.

"They should try to find that money elsewhere," she said of transportation officials.

The latest hike is the fourth in five years sought by Metro-North's parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as it seeks to close a $450 million hole in this year's $12.6 billion budget. On the commuter rail, the goal is to recoup a 7.5 percent revenue increase, or an additional $26 million.

Also increasing, but on Sunday, is a single fare on Westchester County's Bee-Line. The ride will go up 25 cents from the current $2.25, in keeping with the MTA hike for the MetroCard. The Bee-Line switched to the MetroCard in 2007, giving riders a free transfer to New York City buses and subways.

An unlimited-ride MetroCard, which is good for 30 days, will increase to $112 from the current $104.

"Obviously, between that and everything else going up these days, there's only so much to go around," Amy Goldfarb of Rye Brook, who is a New York City accountant, said of the Metro-North fare hikes.

However, there's little end in sight to the pain in the wallet for many commuters. The MTA will be seeking another 7.5 percent revenue hike in 2015, the result of a bailout plan drawn up by Albany lawmakers in 2009.

"I'm not sure it's worth it," Valerie Jones, 25, said as she waited for a Pascack Valley train in Spring Valley earlier this week. "The trains are old."

Jones commutes five or six times a week to Penn Station before heading downtown to take classes at NYU Law School.

The MTA has said it tried to do its part through cost-cutting measures like freezing managers' pay that has contributed to $800 million in annual savings. Officials offered further comment Wednesday.

At the Spring Valley station Wednesday, Quentin Jackson, 25, had just paid $9.50 for a one-way ticket to Penn Station by dropping a $10 bill into a ticket machine. On Friday, he'll have to pay $10.25 to get into the city where he's a film student at Hunter College.

"I do what I have to do," said Jackson, of Spring Valley. "I don't have any choice. But I'm frustrated."

Go to the MTA fare and ticket information page for the new fare increases.

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