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    Sunday, June 16, 2024

    NYC's transit agency planning to raise subway fares, tolls

    Passengers exit the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard subway station in the Queens borough of New York, Aug. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is planning to boost its fares and tolls in late August as the largest U.S. transit provider looks to collect more revenue to help close budget deficits.

    The MTA, which operates New York City's transit network, is considering boosting the cost of a single subway or bus ride to $2.90, up from $2.75. A seven-day unlimited pass would cost $1 more at $34, according to details presented Monday to MTA board members during a finance committee meeting.

    Commuter rail fares would go up by as much as 4.6%, with monthly passes costing no more than $500.

    The farebox increases would be the first since 2019 as the MTA avoided boosting such fees during the pandemic. Toll crossings would increase by as much as 10% without an E-ZPass or as much as 7% with an E-ZPass.

    "It's something we don't necessarily want to do, but it has to be done because that's what organizations like ours do," Neal Zuckerman, who chairs the finance committee, said during the meeting about the anticipated fare and toll increases.

    MTA expects the new charges to bring in $305 million of additional revenue each year. It needs the extra cash as ridership has yet to match pre-pandemic levels. Weekday subway ridership is about 70% of what it was in 2019. Systemwide ridership may only reach 80% of pre-pandemic usage by the end of 2026, the MTA estimates.

    The MTA anticipates holding public hearings in June on the fare hikes, with the agency's board potentially voting on the increases in July. Drivers and riders may start paying the higher tolls and fares in late August, Jai Patel, the MTA's deputy chief financial officer, said during the meeting.

    State lawmakers last month agreed to increase the payroll tax on the city's largest businesses to raise $1.1 billion annually for the MTA and to direct a one-time $300 million in aid to the agency. That additional revenue along with the fare and toll increases and $400 million of annual operating efficiencies will help resolve budget gaps that were expected to grow to $3 billion by 2025.

    The transit agency would also begin receiving in 2026 as much as $700 million a year in gaming revenue from three potential downstate casino developments.

    "This region is so fortunate to have a transportation system like we have and we cannot let it fall down," Andrew Albert, an MTA board member, said during the meeting. "We must keep it going. We must improve the service."

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