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MTA public hearings a farce and a failure?

Amity Paye | 4/12/2011, 5:23 p.m.

"Fire the MTA!" yelled angry audience members at the last public hearing on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's proposed fare hikes Tuesday night.

This meeting, located at the Brooklyn Museum, was the last of five held throughout New York City. While only some members of the MTA board were in attendance at each meeting, the full MTA board is scheduled to vote on the final plan next month. Among the proposed plans are a price hike of the unlimited MetroCard to $104, replacing the unlimited MetroCard with a card capped at 90 rides and a $1 fee to buy a new MetroCard.

These fare hikes come on the heels of suspended service on various bus lines and one train line and sweeping layoffs. The changes are meant to remedy the MTA's large, $1 billion dollar projected budget gap for 2011. The MTA also faces large cuts in funding from the state legislature.

This would be the third time in three years that the fare would be raised. It would constitute a 36 percent fare increase since 2006. Both MTA riders and employees have come out against the new changes. And while the hearings were meant to allow the public, MTA riders and workers to voice their opinions on the proposed fare changes, many were skeptical that their voices would still go unheard.

"I feel like all of you have already made your decision," said Marion Davis, addressing the MTA board Tuesday night. "This is to look like you're doing us a favor."

Audience members were quick to point to MTA Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mark Page, who was falling asleep during the meeting on Tuesday, as proof that this was true.

The public hearings each went on for about three hours, with each speaker given three minutes to talk. Among the people to have statements read during the meeting was Assembly Member Joan L. Millman of the 52nd Assembly District and Councilman Stephen Levin of the 33rd District in Brooklyn. Both came out against the proposed fare changes and asked the MTA not to dig into riders' pockets.

But despite the many speakers, the MTA board did not engage in a dialog with their riders. The atmosphere on Tuesday night quickly became hostile and many speakers found themselves yelling at and criticizing the board.

"We are New Yorkers, that's what we do, we fight. But why don't we take a cue from the transit workers? They just strike," said Robert Humerato. "We have done it before."