We've known for a while that the MTA would like to hike fares up 7.5% in 2013 and 2015 but if you think that means we might get better service (or, dare to dream, some of our lost services back)...we've got a bridge to sell you. Yesterday the MTA reviewed its fare hike plans with the City Council's Transportation Committee and the outlook does not look good.

Though the MTA expects its fare hikes to bring in $463 and $509 million a year in additional revenue, respectively, that money is just going to go right back into paying bills. The MTA projects that increases in pension and health care costs are going to be about $810 million. "So essentially the fare and toll increases, it is almost dollar for dollar being eaten up by our increases in pension and retiree health care costs," MTA Director of Government Affairs Hilary Ring told the Council.

The Council members at the meeting were understandably unhappy with this news—they want everything from more buses to cleaner stations and they want it now. "We just went through severe bus cuts, our trains are packed...the riding public has a right to ask," Committee Chairman James Vacca complained. "When we can afford to run more service, we’ll run more service," explained Ring regarding the need for more buses.

What the MTA really needs is more money. That means money from the city ("In real dollars, city government contributes less to the MTA’s operating budget now than it did in the 1990s. City contributions to the capital budget, too, have been at or below the levels of the late 1980s and early 1990s for nearly two decades.") as well as from the State (which has been dipping into and slashing transit funds for years now). And so fare hikes it (probably) is! Though the MTA has made it sound like the hikes are a done deal, they still need to be approved by the MTA board of directors, and without any improvements to go with them, the City Council is gearing up for a fight. Vacca, at least, has publicly said he will urge the MTA to avoid the hike next year if at all possible.