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New MTA head: No service cuts or fare hikes in 2012

Joe Lhota

Joe Lhota Credit: Joe Lhota attends a November MTA board meeting (Charles Eckert)

Although incoming MTA head Joe Lhota rejected a campaign to restore service cuts throughout the city, he vowed Wednesday not to raise fares or slash service in 2012.

Despite the agency's "fragile" economic situation, Lhota said, "there are no contemplations of" service cuts or fare increases next year. "It is my hope and my prayer that someday we can restore service cuts that happened last year," he said.

Lhota even went a step further, adding, "I do not expect to have any service cuts during my tenure," though fare hikes are already planned for 2013, 2015 and 2017.

Lhota, who is expected to be officially confirmed MTA chairman next month, adamantly shot down a last-minute proposal to hire 300 employees as part of $20 million in service additions for next summer, saying it was still uncertain if the agency would recover funds lost due to the bad economy and recent reductions in tax revenue.

Board member Allen Cappelli reintroduced an amendment proposed earlier this week to undo some service cuts. The plan gained some traction among the board, though it still failed by a 6-4 margin. The budget, without the amendment, passed by a 7-3 vote.

Board member Charles Moerdler, one of two new members to vote in favor of the amendment, said it was important to attempt to add service increases in next year's budget.

"It sends a message to Albany and to City Hall: It's time to play or get away from the piano," he said. "If you care about mass transit, put up or shut up."

Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja

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