MTA Keeps Base Fare at $2.75, Drops Multi-Ride Card Bonus

(Bloomberg) -- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to raise some fares for New York City subway and bus riders to close a budget shortfall that was projected to double over the next three years.

The proposal, approved Wednesday at an MTA board meeting, will keep the base subway fare at $2.75 while eliminating the 5 percent discount for purchasing multiple rides at one time -- a bonus that had resulted in an effective fare of $2.62. The cost of a weekly unlimited pass would rise to $33 from $32, while a monthly pass would increase to $127 from $121. The changes go into effect on April 21.

The agency faces a deficit of more than $500 million in the next year, a shortfall that was projected to head toward $1 billion by 2022. The new subway and bus fares, combined with increased tolls on the agency’s seven bridges and two tunnels and higher commuter rail prices, will mean about $336 million a year more revenue, said MTA Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer.

“The fare’s got to be raised in a relatively equitable way,” Ferrer said. “The least painful way to accomplish that is what we put forward to the board today.”

Commuter rail passes would increase by no more than 3.85 percent, with monthly ticket increases capped at $15 and weekly passes by no more than $5.75, and no monthly ticket would exceed $460. Increases of one-way fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains would have a range of up to 8 percent, according to the plan.

The vote comes a day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to support congestion pricing in midtown Manhattan as part of a sweeping overhaul of the MTA. The agency on Wednesday released a list of steps it’s taking to reduce costs, including consolidating back office functions, reducing vendor and contractor costs, freeing hiring and improving efficiency of capital projects.

The 115-year-old system has been plagued by problems resulting from decades of deferred maintenance, underfunding and damage to its track and signaling equipment after tunnels were flooded during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Andy Byford, who’s in charge of the city’s subways and buses as head of the MTA’s New York City Transit authority, has said it would cost $40 billion over 10 years to get the system up to 21st century standards.

The congestion pricing plan and other dedicated tax revenue from yet-to-be-legalized marijuana and an Internet sales tax, if approved by the state legislature, would create an estimated $22 billion of capital funds that could be used to purchase new subway cars, upgrade obsolete signaling technology and make track repairs.

The MTA proposes fare increases every two years to meet rising costs. It held eight public hearings in recent months on the latest fare proposals, before delaying a vote in January.

“Deferral last month deprived us of $30 million in revenue,” said Ferrer. “It’s not easy to ask people to come up with more.”

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