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Cuomo Ally On MTA Board Will Unveil Secret Fare Hike Alternative Plan

Dashed Arrow Michael Dillingham / Flickr

With a subway and bus fare hike looming, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board was expected to vote on one of two fare increase options at its meeting Thursday, either a $3 base fare or the elimination of bonuses for putting more than one ride’s money on a Metrocard at one time. But Larry Schwartz, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s appointee to the board and his former chief of staff, has revealed that he plans to introduce a third option that the public has not yet seen.

Schwartz told The New York Times that under his proposal, fare increases would be tied to improvements in service, though he did not provide specifics. Neither Schwartz nor the MTA immediately responded to Gothamist requests for more information on the new fare proposal.

In order to vote on any new fare hike plan, according to board member Andrew Albert and others, the MTA would first require 14 days notice and another public hearing before holding a board vote.

The capital plan approved by the MTA in December relies on a fare increase to generate $316 million a year in revenue, which the authority says it badly needs to stave off increasing deficits. The current fare proposals would either keep base fares at $2.75 and eliminate any bonus for bulk purchases, or raise base fares to $3 and increase the bonus to 10 percent with a purchase of $6 or more. Under both proposals unlimited monthly cards would increase from $121 to either $126.25 or $127.

The governor controls a plurality of the MTA board. But Cuomo has repeatedly said he’s against the fare hike and that he doesn’t control the MTA. Speaking on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show Wednesday, he declined to say whether he’s instructed his appointed board members how to vote on the fare increases.

"I'm in favor of more revenue. I'm in favor of congestion pricing, it's a billion dollars a year,” Cuomo said. “I get the need for the funding, I also get…that the bureaucracy is not working. We all know that.”

The fare increase was originally scheduled to go into effect in March. The MTA stands to lose $30 million a month if the fare increase isn’t enacted, MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran said at an MTA committee meeting on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Regional Plan Association said the organization hasn’t heard of other city transit systems that tied performance to fare rates—although NJ Transit did offer 10 percent discounts to riders last fall in anticipation of service declines.

Lisa Daglian, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, said she hasn’t seen Schwartz’s plan, but has a lot of questions about it: If there’s a performance threshold each agency must meet, who sets the standards? Can the MTA do it or will it require legislation? Who enforces the rules?

“To me it’d seem, logistically, that it’d be difficult to implement quickly,” she told Gothamist. “It’s not something you can rush into, we need to get a better understanding of all the different moving parts to it.”

Daglian is certain about two things: Schwartz’s new proposal will need to go through a public hearing process. And she’ll bring snacks to Thursday’s board meeting—it’s sure to be a long one.


Update, January 24, 2019: At the MTA's board meeting, the fare hike was officially postponed:

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