Council Member Letitia James was incredibly disappointed to learn that the MTA decided to approve the transit fare increases. The following is the testimony the Council Member presented at the MTA Public Hearing on September 21, 2010.
"I want to register my strong objection to any increase of the MTA ridership fare and toll modifications proposed for implementation on January 1, 2011.
Under the proposed MTA plan, the cost of an unlimited monthly Metrocard would increase nearly 17%, from $89 to $104. Riders would have the option of opting for a less expensive $99 card with a maximum number of trips limited to 90. The MTA has presented this proposal as progressive, noting the difference in income between riders who purchase the pay-per-ride Metrocards and the unlimited weekly cards, and those who purchase the 30-day pass. I would say that the board has a faulty understanding of wealth when they consider an individual making $63,000 annually in New York City comfortably able to afford a 17% fare hike. The monthly unlimited card has always been the most affordable option on a day-to-day basis; those who use public transportation daily and choose day-to-day or weekly Metrocards are clearly purchasing their cards with the money in their pocket. I agree that the MTA should keep the needs of New York’s working-class citizens primary in their consideration, but a truly progressive increase would not harshly punish the majority of middle-class New Yorkers.
I’ve heard the excuse of the MTA— the state funding is lacking. All New York State and City agencies have felt the crunch. But the reality is that the MTA’s financial picture is what it is because of the bloated and wasteful spending of the agency itself. This is the same agency that sells-off land underpriced to wealthy developers while laying off their municipal workers. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported earlier this year that MTA overtime costs soared 26% between 2005 and 2009, nearly $3M more than anticipated this year alone. MTA overall spending has grown at an average annual rate of 7% during the past five years, more than twice the rate of inflation. The MTA’s outstanding debt totals about $27.5B, 54% higher than it was five years ago. The MTA Real Estate Taxes are coming in short by $105M. The MTA Payroll Mobility Tax will be over $200M short of projected returns by the end of the year. These muddled numbers and others leave you with an $800 million deficit— a deficit that seems to steadily increase. And recently, Moody’s reduced the rating on the MTA’s transportation revenue bonds to A3, the fourth-lowest investment grade.
While you ask the ridership to accept a fare hike, what is being done to improve the MTA’s financial plan? What structural changes are being made to ensure future financial stability? Is there going to be an increase of services in the future, or can we continue to see the drastic service cuts that have taken place in the last 24 months? Are you building upon technical upgrades? It is important that the MTA communicate with the City at large what they plan to do to improve service, instead of lazily pointing to finger at funding issues.
Until I see a concerted effort to change the structure of the MTA, I will stand with the taxpayers and ridership in opposing these fare increases."