Commuters beware! MTA toll, fare hikes now in effect

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Tim Fleischer has the latest on hike in fares and commuter reaction (WABC)

If you're traveling anywhere around New York City, be prepared to pay extra.

Fare and toll increases went into effect Sunday on the city's subways, buses, commuter trains, bridges and tunnels, part of a series of fare increases in recent years built into the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority's budget. The latest come at a time when commuters are fed up with increasing delays on subways and trains that got worse over the course of a difficult, snowy winter that wreaked havoc on the rails.

Subway fares are up by a quarter to $2.75, while a weekly MetroCard increased by $1 and the monthly $4.50.

The cost of riding the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad is up about 4 percent, though the price will vary depending on the time of day and the distance traveled. At major bridges and tunnels, including the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, formerly called the Triborough Bridge, and the Queens Midtown Tunnel, E-ZPass tolls increased 21 cents to $5.54.

While the fare increase is cheaper than the one MTA had originally planned, it's still the fifth increase in six years, said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, an advocacy group for subway riders.

"Riders are weary and angry," Russianoff said. "The outlook for future fares is very gloomy unless Gov. Andrew Cuomo finds new revenues to fill a $15 billion gap in funding vital rebuilding need over the next five years."

Subway delays increased by about 45 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to MTA records. In the past week alone, multiple track fires on the 7 train infuriated the people who rely on it to travel from Queens to Manhattan. And on the perennially overcrowded L train, the main link between Manhattan and Brooklyn's Williamsburg, trains were halted by a broken rail and a "rail condition" on two consecutive days, causing lengthy delays during rush hour.

"What we're hearing from riders is that they're feeling they are paying more and more for less and less," said Nick Sifuentes, deputy director of the group Riders Alliance. "Delays on trains, getting stuck underground for hours, dangerously crowded platforms, and a big thing we hear over and over, lack of communication."

MTA officials are reported to have described a system that is "bursting at the seams" due to an increase in ridership. They met today discussing the issues.

"I realize, and we all realize, that not where we need it to be and not meeting our customers expectations," NYC Transit president Carmen Nbianco said.

While some encounter fewer problems, others say trains are more over crowded than ever, and delays and weather-problems were also a concern.

"I think we have to figure out what we did wrong, because I can't imagine we can just blame nature for all of this," MTA board member Jonathan Ballan said.

Riders Alliance is hoping to convince state officials that the MTA's capital plan needs immediate attention.

"Our worry is that if the MTA's capital plan isn't funded, we are going to see more and more of this," Sifuentes said. "And it's going to get worse."

Transit officials say increased ridership and aging infrastructure are partly to blame for the delays. And they stand to worsen if the state legislature doesn't come up with the $15 billion to fund the MTA's proposed capital budget, which will pay for sorely needed mechanical system-wide improvements.

"The cost of running New York's mass transit network keeps rising, but by cutting more than $1 billion from our annual expenses, the MTA has been able to hold fare and toll increases down to the equivalent of 2 percent a year, with the lowest increases for our most frequent customers," the MTA said in a statement earlier this week.

Subway ridership is at an all-time high, with about 6 million people on the busiest days. Last fall, the MTA recorded 149 million passengers in the month of September, a record.

The MTA says these increases are just a start, and that riders should expect another 4 percent increase in 2017.

(Some information from the Associated Press.)
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