In an announcement that surely pleases voters, State Controller Thomas DiNapoli released a report saying the MTA should think again before raising its fares and tolls. DiNapoli said that the MTA hasn't made enough internal budget cuts yet to warrant an increase in fares and tolls. The proposed increases in fares and tolls is 6.5% in 2008 and another 5% in 2010. With the MTA set to vote on the fare increase in December, DiNapoli's report says the vote is premature because it comes before Governor Spitzer's 2008-09 budget and before the findings of a commission on congestion pricing. The budget and congestion pricing both affect MTA's funding.

In his report, DiNapoli says:

"The MTA should put New York’s commuters first. Before the MTA asks for more money from straphangers, it should develop a coordinated strategy with the State and City to balance its operating budget and to finance the next five-year capital program.

The MTA has taken some good first steps to develop a long-term plan for its future fiscal health. But talk of a fare hike is premature. The City is trying to reduce congestion and encourage greater use of mass transit. Any fare increase should be the last piece of a comprehensive plan, not the first."

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin says they've already taken what DiNapoli said into consideration, but the agency still needs to raise fares.

While the MTA will probably ignore DiNapoli's input, there's one thing that stands out in the comptroller's findings: "The MTA saved only $12.3 million from management actions planned for 2006, which is just 41 percent of its target savings." If the MTA is going to raise fares, it would be nice to see them at least meet their own targets for savings before passing the buck on to commuters.

You can read the full report from the Comptroller's office here (136kb .PDF file). Earlier this month, City Comptroller Bill Thompson also released a report saying that the MTA doesn't need to increase fares.

Cartoon by Mikhaela Reid via flickr