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To the surprise of no one, New Yorkers are not in favor of the MTA's proposed fare-and-toll hikes. Residents, transit advocates and elected officials have been speaking at the MTA's public hearings all week, raising a number of questions about the MTA's service, the state's and city's contributions to the MTA, and effect it will have on riders.

2007_11_mtg4.jpgThe Manhattan public hearing reminded of us Festivus, or at least its "public airing of grievances" aspect, but we don't want to trivialize the meeting's importance - MTA officials, who included MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger, NYC Transit Authority President Howard Roberts, and other MTA board members, must hear from the public during these occasions, if not on a regular basis. In fact, the MTA officials would seem like they are interested in hearing from public if they didn't look so bored when people were speaking (dudes - and they were all men at the Manhattan meeting - we know you had a long day, but come on!).

The Straphangers' Campaign Gene Russianoff brought a megaphone during his remarks, because he delivered them in English and in MTA subway-public-announcement speak (rough example: He would say that Governor Spitzer needs to do more with state funding of the MTA, and the MTA PA version would be "Gurgle gurgle Governor Spitzer gurgle gurgle").

State Senator Eric Schneiderman called the MTA wimps for not fighting with the public to demand more funding (after the "irresponsible and oppressive de-funding of the MTA...during the Pataki era"). And Assemblyman Richard Gottfried complained about the fare hike's regressive nature to poorer riders, "Every time you take money and resources away from those already struggling to keep body and soul together, you take a little more from the lives."

Greg Morris, a resident in East Harlem, noted how service had been lacking for him on subways and buses and said, "People doing a lousy job get fired. These fare hike meeting are your warning." And a Columbia graduate student, Patrick Callahan, questioned why NYC doesn't offer substantial discounts for college students, while many other cities' transit systems offer them.

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At the Staten Island meeting, riders complained about construction on the Verrazano and how "express" bus service from Manhattan takes two hours. And the overall process of the public meetings is being questioned. The Post reports that citizens wants a chance to speak immediately, instead of dealing with "at least 45 minutes of grandstanding by elected officials" before they get a chance. The MTA is actually holding a public workshop next Saturday (November 17) to "supplement the formal fare and toll public hearings and give you an additional forum at which to provide the MTA with informed, meaningful input about which options you prefer and your priorities for the future of the MTA." You can register for the workshop here.