NEW YORK (WABC) -- The MTA is considering an increase to next year's scheduled fare and toll hike as the authority faces budget gaps in the billions.
Chief Financial Officer Kevin Willens proposed an increase of 5.5%, rather than the planned 4% hike, during a budget presentation at the MTA Board's monthly meeting Wednesday morning.
Willens cited a "dramatic drop in ridership" during the coronavirus pandemic as "the primary cause of the financial challenge we face."
He said the MTA is facing revenue shortfalls in excess of $2 billion per year despite the agency still having unused federal pandemic relief money.
"Without new recurring revenue, the board will have to look to larger fare hikes, service cuts, and headcount reduction to close the remaining gaps," Willens said.
The board will vote on its overall budget next month, but any fare and toll changes will not be approved until the MTA holds public hearings early next year.
Those hearings will determine how much of the increase should be shouldered by subway and bus riders, commuter rail riders, and drivers.
The agency is holding out hope that the Biden Administration, Gov. Kathy Hochul, or even Mayor Eric Adams will provide new funding.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has already publicly stated that fare hikes are off the table "indefinitely," citing the transit system's continued comeback from the coronavirus pandemic.
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said a fare hike is avoidable if lawmakers are able to help.
"What we've said is that Washington, City Hall, and Albany all have a role to play in figuring out how to get the MTA through this budget crisis," Lieber said
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