"Every single person who rides or uses the system will be affected," Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger said after the MTA's board approved the cuts, fare increases and toll hikes in separate 12-1 votes. "That's how bad it is."
MTA officials blamed the authority's fiscal woes on the economic downturn. They said ridership is down and revenue from taxes on real estate transactions have fallen steeply.
The MTA acted to balance its $11 billion budget even as state lawmakers tried to hash out a bailout that could soften the blow for the 8.5 million commuters who use the MTA's bus, subway and rail lines on an average weekday.
Legislation to impose a regional payroll tax and add tolls to now-free bridges has run into opposition in the capitol, especially among lawmakers from the city's outer boroughs.
"We are clearly working still toward a solution for them," Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat, said in Albanay after the MTA meeting. "There is still some time" before the price increases and service cuts begin in about two months.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, vowed to do everything in his power to "ensure that today's vote by the MTA does not stand."
And Gov. David Paterson said he and lawmakers would continue to seek agreement on a rescue plan.
"Though we did not create this problem, it is our duty to solve it," he said.
Inside the board room, public transit advocates held up signs that read, "Gov. Paterson, Rescue Transit!" Elsewhere in the city, protesters organized a "call-a-thon" at Manhattan's busy Union Square for angry riders to phone state lawmakers.
Under the measures adopted by the MTA board Wednesday, a 30-day New York City MetroCard will cost $103, up from $81. Monthly and single-ride fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North will rise an average of 23 percent.
The service cuts will allow the MTA to lay off about 1,100 workers, including station agents and bus drivers. The layoffs amount to less than 2 percent of the agency's 69,000-strong work force, but more cuts are expected.
Under the bailout plan stalled in Albany, fares would rise 8 percent on average, tolls would be added to East River and Harlem River bridges, and businesses in the MTA's 12-county region would be charged a payroll tax.
If there is no deal, the new subway and bus fares would take effect May 31. New commuter rail fares would go into effect June 1, and the higher tolls would take effect in mid-July.
MTA officials said they still held out hope that for a deal in Albany that would prevent the worst of the cuts and fare increases.
Asked what the absolute deadline was for lawmakers to act, MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander said: "We really have the month of April before people get impacted. We could reverse some of those actions in May but they will already start taking place."
Absent a deal, officials said they feared additional service cuts and fare increases would soon become necessary. Sander and Hemmerdinger would not specify when they might have to ask for more fare hikes.
Riders said the fare increases will be a bitter pill.
"Fare increases always seem to happen when people are hurting," said Robert Levit, a dean at Phoenix University. "I'm going to have to pay $103 for a monthly ticket and my service is going down. It's hard not to be angry about that."
Connie Mangan, an insurance investigator from Bethpage who was waiting for an LIRR train at Penn Station, said the fare increases would make suburbanites think twice before taking the train.
"With gas prices going down, it almost gets to the point where it's even," she said.
Transit advocates said the service cuts would be the worst since New York City's fiscal crisis in the 1970s.
"Companies may rethink if they want to locate here," said Andrew Albert, a nonvoting riders' representative on the MTA board. "It hurts tourism. It hurts people going out at night. It's just unthinkable that this could happen in New York."
NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS
SEND TIP OR PHOTO || REPORT TYPO || GET WIDGET
EYEWITNESS TWITTER || FIND US ON FACEBOOK