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MTA fare hikes lower than expected, TWU wonders ‘where’s our money?’

Stephon Johnson | 11/21/2013, 1:55 p.m.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) recently announced that it overestimated the proposed fare hikes for 2015 and 2017, and New Yorkers won’t feel the pinch as much as expected.

“MTA cost-cutting measures have been more effective than anticipated,” read an MTA statement. “As outlined in the Final Proposed 2014 Budget and Four-Year Financial Plan, the growth of agency expenses in 2014 will be limited to 1.96 percent, which is in line with the rate of inflation.”

MTA officials stated that they expect the combination of increased cost-cutting, lowered expenses and higher operating revenues to allow the agency to slash projected fare hikes from 7.5 percent to 4 percent. On top of the latest development, $18 million in funding for service investments was proposed last July, $11.5 million in increased service to meet loading and headway guidelines and $11 million in additional customer enhancements, including working on the extension of train lines, bus lines and Long Island Railroad service and the restoring of bus services.

“We try to keep costs down in order to minimize the financial burden on our customers, and as this financial plan shows, we are succeeding in that effort,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast in a statement. “Our customers want value, which is quality and quantity of service, and that service has to be reliable and safe. Through this financial plan, that’s what we work to provide.”

According to the MTA, its finances are dependent on the health of the regional economy, and despite an improved outlook, risks remain. Plus, the plan operates under the assumption that labor agreements will be settled with three years of net-zero wage growth.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in statement that the MTA’s realization mirrored what his office found regarding the improved outlook of the MTA’s financial outlook.

“Today’s Final Proposed 2014 Budget and Four-Year Financial Plan confirms our recommendation that Prendergast deserves credit for his leadership in finding ways to reduce the proposed increase in fares and tolls while maintaining the safety and maintenance of the system that so many New Yorkers depend on,” said DiNapoli. According to the comptroller’s office, MTA fares have increased by 29 percent since 2007.

But Transit Workers Union Local 100 isn’t throwing the MTA a parade anytime soon. TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen said that with more money available than expected, the MTA should accommodate the union’s desire for a wage increase.

“The MTA’s revenues have rebounded dramatically,” said Samuelsen. “Ridership is at its highest point in decades. They are flush with cash. The workforce is incredibly productive. The MTA has more than enough revenue to pay a decent raise to its workers, and enough revenue to completely forego a fare increase for the foreseeable future.

“They’re tossing a few crumbs at the public and expect to be patted on the back,” continued Samuelsen. “It’s pretty outrageous. Both the workers and the riders deserve better.”