The city’s kids may have something else to be excited about besides the school year ending soon.
Officials are on track to save student MetroCards through some backroom wheeling and dealing — but it could end up hurting straphangers in the long run through higher fares or more service cuts.
The MTA, state Legislature and governor were nearing a deal Thursday to pony up $25 million for the passes, which is $19 million more than the state originally pledged but far less than the MTA had lobbied for. In return, the state will increase the amount that the MTA can borrow to make major infrastructure improvements, officials said.
“The student MetroCards will be restored. It made no sense to make kids a pawn,” said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, (D-Westchester).
A mayoral spokesman said the city is keeping its contribution for the passes at $45 million — leaving a roughly $194 million-gap for the MTA to fill in its July budget. The agency estimates it costs $214 million a year to provide the fares for more than 550,000 students.
The MTA has made extensive cuts already to help plug a more than $800 million budget hole, and restoring student MetroCards could mean a bigger fare increase in January to fill the remaining gap, transit advocates said.
“It’s good news for students. It’s questionable news for riders and the fares,” said Neysa Pranger, of the Regional Plan Association, an advocacy group.
Student MetroCards were a powerful budgetary bargaining chip, as they are a politically-charged issue in an election year. According to transit sources, the MTA relented on the fares when they needed to be able to borrow more cash to start projects outlined in a $26.3 billion improvement plan, which the state quietly approved earlier this month.
The MTA declined to comment.