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McKinstry: Service cuts and fare increases could be on the horizon for MTA riders

A new report says LIRR has untapped potential

A new report says LIRR has untapped potential to transform the economies of Nassau and Suffolk. Credit: Chris Ware

Commuters in New York City’s suburbs should get their heads around railroad service cuts, increased fares – or a combination of both thanks to a New York State Supreme Court ruling that said a payroll tax was unconstitutional.

Those are part of the findings of a study released yesterday by the Citizens Budget Commission, which concluded that Metro North fares could spike as much as 32 percent while LIRR riders could see an increase of 46 percent.

Service could also be trimmed by as much as 16 percent on Long Island and 15 percent in the northern suburbs, the commission concluded.

If there’s any doubt, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota pretty much came to a similar conclusion soon after the State Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 22 that the MTA Payroll Tax – which charged businesses and governments 34 cents out of every $100 in payroll – was unconstitutional.

At the time, Lhota said there could be “incomprehensible" service cuts and a “radical, substantial fare increase” that would kill far more jobs than the tax itself.

The commission predicted a rider will have to pay $73 more, or $302 a month, to go from White Plains to Grand Central. It would be upwards of $150 more for a Ronkonkoma commuter going to Penn Station, bringing the monthly tab to $488 a month, the study found.

While businesses are cheering the overturning of what they dubbed a “job killing tax,” and some are even hoping to get some sort of refund, there is a vast $459 million budget hole that will need to be filled -- so commuters may have to pony up for rides and far fewer trains.