There will be no MTA fare hikes or service cuts for the near future, state officials announced on Tuesday. And they credited the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul made the announcement during a press conference hours before she attends the White House ceremony for the historic bill signing.
"We anticipate that there will be no fare hikes for the MTA," she said from Albany International Airport. "I'm real excited to say that we will not have to raise the fares or have any service cuts. The service cuts that were planned for 2023-2024 are now off the table for MTA commuters."
MTA acting chair and CEO Janno Lieber said that there would be "no fare hike in the near term" and that the agency would be "deferring all service cuts." He later elaborated, "We’re taking fare hikes off the table for at least six months, maybe well beyond that.”
The infrastructure bill will be transformative for the New York region, with some business and transit leaders suggesting bold ideas to reverse decades-old environmental discrimination and finally getting around to long-gestating projects, like the East Harlem extension of the Second Avenue Subway.
Subway and bus fare hikes last occurred in April 2019, when weekly and monthly MetroCard fares were increased while the base fare of $2.75 per ride remained steady. The planned 2021 fare hike was postponed and then scrapped. Subway ridership has been increasing since the city reopened, but is still about 40-50% below pre-pandemic levels.
President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure bill on Monday afternoon, lauding the bipartisan legislation, "We're taking a monumental step forward to build back better as a nation."
While commuters might be happy about the prospect of freezing fare hikes, Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said, "No, it's not a good thing that Hochul seems to be following the Cuomo example, unliterally interfering in the deliberations of the MTA just to make a headline, and, more substantively, fiscally tying the MTA's hands for another three years."
Gelinas continued, "She is also conflating capital money, what the national infrastructure bill will pay for, with operating money. I'm not saying at all that they should raise fares; it's obviously a very delicate situation. But there in no reason right now to bind ourselves to a multi-year pledge."
Interim chairman Lieber said Monday that using money from Washington for infrastructure projects means the MTA has to borrow less, so its debt payments, which eat up a massive chunk of the MTA's budget will be less, leaving more money for operating expenses.
On Wednesday the agency will get presentation on the five year financial plan, giving the public a glimpse of how much of a deficit the agency is expecting in the coming years.