Monday, March 16, 2009

New Yorkers face steeper fares, deep service cuts

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If the New York State Senate continues to balk at a plan to help the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority close a looming $1.2 billion budget gap, the agency's millions of daily rail, subway, and bus riders face fare increases averaging 23% and deep cuts in service.

That warning came from MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger as the time grew shorter for the legislature to approve a plan that would increase fares only 8% but also impose a payroll tax in the 12-county area served by the MTA and introduce tolls on New York City's East River and Harlem River bridges. Hemmerdinger said MTA's board would meet on March 25 to vote on a new fare and service structure to go into effect in June. He said the deadline "is not artificial--it's quite real."

A commission led by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravcitch proposed the rescue plan to cover a sharp drop in tax revenue that help support the transit agency and to meet large interest payments on debt that has financed an ambitious capital improvement program.

The plan has the support of Gov. David K. Paterson and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon A. Silver, but it has run into sharp resistance in the State Senate, where it is opposed by some Democrats and nearly all Republicans.