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MTA considers 5.5% fare increase, service cuts to avoid fiscal cliff

Joe Shlabotnik

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering raising fares by 5.5% to shrink its annual deficit, which is projected to reach $3 million. It would be the highest fare raise in almost a decade.

MTA CEO Janno Lieber said the increase would be "modest."

“For New Yorkers, transit is like air and water," Lieber said. "We need it to survive. That means it needs to be reliable, safe, and, yes, affordable for everyone.”

The MTA is also considering using fewer cars on the Long Island Rail Road trains and reducing weekday service on the rail.

A drop in ridership has caused the deficit. Now, the authority is tasked with paying down debt with insufficient savings.

MTA board member Samuel Chu urged the board to vote to exhaust federal COVID funds. Chu said this will offset part of the deficit — but more importantly, send a signal for help.

“If we want this system to operate like we've grown accustomed to it our entire lives, we’re gonna need help,” Chu said. “We’re not going to be able to do this on our own. And I think the responsible thing is to send that signal as quickly as possible.”

MTA board member Neal Zuckerman disagreed with Chu, and instead urged the board to vote to stretch federal COVID funds over the upcoming years.

“A good budget, a good CEO, a good board, tries to remove distortions and focus on the reality of the underlying conditions of the business,” Zuckerman said. “And this is our underlying condition, to put it plainly, our cost exceeds our revenue.”

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It’s unclear how much LIRR ticket prices would increase if the fare increase happens.

Public hearings on the increase likely won't happen until after February.

This comes as the MTA announced multiple projects will not finish as scheduled because of cost increases. The projects include contactless fare systems on the LIRR and Metro-North trains and construction on the East Side Access project.

The contactless fare system may not finish until 2025 and could cost an additional $120 million.

Construction on the East Side Access project will not be finished by the end of the year, as previously projected. Instead, it is now predicted to be completed by February 2023.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.