MTA Board approves toll hikes at bridges, tunnels, delays fare hikes on subway, bus, rails

NEW YORK CITY -- The MTA Board approved an increase in tolls at bridges and tunnels, but they put the brakes on a similar hike for subway, bus and rail fares until the summer.

The increase raises the one-way toll for New York E-ZPass users at major MTA crossings to $6.55, up from $6.12. Non-New York E-ZPass drivers will pay $10.17, up from $9.50.

Staten Island commuters will continue to have a resident discount, and the post rebate toll to cross the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge increases to $2.95, up from $2.75

Additionally, the MTA will create a "new mid tier rate" for E-ZPass holders who improperly mount their E-ZPass. They say this will incentivize drivers to properly mount their tags, instead of pulling them out at the last minute.

The move is expected to save $4.9 million a year in the cost of using video cameras to track down E-ZPass holders, which officials said is a very laborious process that the agency must engage in to use imaging to identify the customers.

MTA officials say the toll hikes will generate about $62 million in additional revenues this year, and $116 million in their first full year in 2022.

Profits from the bridges and tunnels are used to subsidize mass transit.

Related: MTA outlines 'draconian' cuts without $12 billion in federal aid

The MTA raises fares and tolls every two years, but they broke with that pattern last month when the board concluded a proposed fare increase for trains, buses and subways -- initially scheduled to take effect in March -- was unfair at a time of economic uncertainty and with mostly essential workers riding the systems.

Keeping fares the same will cost about $5 million a month in lost revenue.

Weekday average bus and subway ridership is down between 50% and 70%, but weekday traffic at the authority's seven bridges and two tunnels is only down about 15% compared with pre-pandemic levels, so the toll hikes are being approved as originally planned.

Separately, MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye said "worst case" doomsday service cuts are off the table for the foreseeable future, thanks to federal aid and borrowing from federal reserve.

However, drastic service reductions remain on the table for 2023-24 as the MTA as projects an $8 billion deficit.

Officials urged Congress to quickly pass the American Rescue Plan, including delivering an additional $8 billion in federal relief for the agency amidst its ongoing financial crisis.

"The Federal funding provided by Congress in December that was made possible by the advocacy of Majority Leader Schumer and the entire New York delegation has allowed the MTA to avoid the worst case cuts not just in 2021 but also 2022," Foye said. "But the pandemic is projected to continue to wreak havoc on the MTA's finances for the next four years as ridership gradually rebuilds. We continue to urgently request $8 billion in additional Federal aid as part of the American Rescue Plan so we can serve as the economic engine leading New York's recovery from this devastating pandemic."

Related: MTA in worse shape than during the Great Depression, officials say

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