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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board voted Wednesday in April to raise rates for subway and bus users in New York City. But the agency says higher fares will not solve its deep financial crisis.
The board decided to keep the base fare at $ 2.75 while eliminating the 5% bonus that motorcyclists receive when they purchase a MetroCard pay card. Commuters who rely on the authority's extensive network of trains, buses, bridges and tunnels will also experience an approximate 4% increase in fares and tolls.
On April 21, the price of a weekly MetroCard will rise from $ 32 to $ 33. A monthly pass will increase from $ 121 to $ 127.
The rate increase vote comes at a time when state legislators decide whether or not to approve new sources of revenue for the system. Public transit officials say they need billions of dollars to tackle huge budget deficits and pay for critical repairs.
The board has approved modest rate increases every two years, but this is the first since The metro has entered a crisis in 2017. Without additional funding, the leaders of the public transport sector say that they could be forced to reduce their services.
The city's transport commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, said it was a tough decision to raise fares, but that rates must keep up with inflation.
"I do not think anyone likes this vote today, but I think it's important to keep this agency running," said Ms. Trottenberg, who also sits on the board of directors.
Nevertheless, some subway users were unhappy about having to pay more to use a system that suffers from delays. Cameron L. Mitchell, Columbia University Library Assistant, posted on Twitter: "The M.T.A. Expects us to pay more for a service that continues to decline? No wonder the traffic is down. "
In addition to a tariff increase on the suburban railways, the tolls on M.T.A. bridges and tunnels will increase on March 31. For E-ZPass users, the toll on most crossings will increase by 36 cents. At the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, where tolls are collected only when entering Staten Island, the E-ZPass toll will increase from $ 11.52 to $ 12.24 and from $ 17 to $ 17.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is pushing for congestion pricing, a proposed toll for cars entering Manhattan's busiest areas to raise money for the transit system. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who controls authority, warned that without congestion pricing, the authority may have to raise tariffs by 30%.
Pressure for congestion pricing received strong momentum on Tuesday when Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had been lukewarm at the thought, announced his support for the proposal. In a common plan, MM. Cuomo and Blasio also called for two new sources of revenue for the transit system: a cannabis tax and a sales tax on the Internet.
On Wednesday, Mr. de Blasio took the metro to sell runners at congestion rates. The cameras captured the mayor, known for his travels in black SUVs, handing out leaflets at a Brooklyn station.
"What I would say to drivers, is that it's what New York City needs, that's what we all need," the mayor told the press. "8.6 million people are all in the same boat. If we do not repair our metros, our economy will not work. "
But a group of Senate Democrats representing Long Island said they had "troubling concerns" about congestion pricing and claimed that the plan was too much focused on the subway and that it was not the only way to go about it. was not doing enough to enjoy Long Island Rail Road.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Majority Leader, warned that these opposing voices should be heard in the debate on funding for public transit. "I look forward to working with my delegation on Long Island to ensure that Long Island's needs are met," she said in a statement.
Tariff and toll increases are expected to yield about $ 336 million a year, but only about half of the Authority's $ 16 billion operating budget comes from fares and tolls. The rest comes from dedicated taxes, national and local grants and other revenues.
Council needed to approve higher rates last month, but this delayed the vote after Mr Cuomo strongly opposed the increases. Lawrence S. Schwartz, a member of the Board of Directors and an ally of Mr. Cuomo, had raised the possibility of a separate proposal to link rate increases to service improvements.
Another member of the board, Mitchell Pally, representing Long Island, made one last effort to delay the increase in the suburban railways tariff until the board could consider Mr. Schwartz's idea. But council rejected Mr. Pally's motion to postpone the decision.
New Yorkers who rely on Access-A-Ride, the agency's troubled paratransit service, want to keep the base fare at $ 2.75, as long as they pay for their travel. A separate proposal would have raised the base rate of a MetroCard to a trip to 3 USD, while doubling the per-trip payment bonus to 10%.
Metro Chief Andy Byford explained that the system has improved significantly over the last year. The punctuality rate, which used to be around 65%, reached 77% last month.
The transit agency recently unveiled the name of the new fare payment system it will introduce in May. The system will call OMNY, which means "One Metro New York".
Subway and bus users may be able to enter a credit card or smartphone on an electronic reader to enter the system and the MetroCard will be removed. In May, the technology will appear on the subway for the first time on Lines 4, 5 and 6 between Manhattan's Grand Central Station and Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
If congestion pricing failed in Albany this year, the authority could face tough choices, ranging from a significant price increase to the layoff of workers. Even though congestion pricing is approved, it will not provide all the funds that the authority says it needs to improve its network of subways, buses and commuter trains.
Cuomo says the price of congestion could generate $ 15 billion. But the next five-year investment plan of the authority could cost between 40 and 60 billion dollars.
At the same time, critics claim that the agency has spent little money and has not managed to master the huge costs of projects such as East Side Access, a new station for Long Island Rail Road located under Grand Terminal. The cost has inflated to over $ 11 billion.
The authority has a long list of priorities, from improving the bus network to installing more elevators in the metro. At a board meeting Monday, advocates for accessibility rang the alarm on reports that the agency could reduce its plans for installation elevators in 50 stations over the next five years.
Mr Byford, president of New York City Transit, the agency that oversees the subway and buses, is committed to making elevators a top priority.
"This president is not weakening," said Byford. "My commitment to these 50 stations is strong."