Thursday, August 5, 2010

MTA Unveils 2011 Budget Plan

Changes Planned for Unlimited Cards

Straphangers who depend on the city’s subways and busses will soon pay extra for their daily rides, especially if they use the unlimited Metro Cards. The MTA, which is facing a deficit of more than $800 million, recently announced a plan that includes cost-cutting measures and fare hikes.

Public hearings are expected to be held in September on the plan, which is expected to be finalized in December.

Under the plan, the MTA honored its 2009 agreement with the state legislature and kept fare hikes at 7.5 percent. Base rides will remain $2.25, but the MTA proposed various increases on other types of MetroCards.

Unlimited Metro Cards received the brunt of the changes. The 30-day unlimited card would cost $99 dollars and be capped at 90 rides. Another option discussed was a $104 unlimited card with no cap restrictions. The 30-day unlimited card is currently $89. Similarly, the 7- day unlimited cards would have a 22-ride cap for $28 or an unlimited card for $29.

The MTA argued even with the increased price, riders would receive significant discounts. “A rider taking 90 rides in a month would pay $1.10 per ride under the $99 option, or $1.16 per ride under the $104 option,” the MTA said in a press release.

Other changes to unlimited cards include the elimination of the 14-day unlimited and the “one-day Fun Pass.” According to the MTA, the two cards account for just 2.9 percent of trips.

Other cost-cutting measures included charging customers a one-dollar “green fee” for buying new Metro Cards. The MTA spends $13 million each year printing new cards. The initiative would reduce litter if more people refilled existing cards, and the surcharge would not apply to cards sold at outside retailers.

The MTA also proposed sacrifices for their labor force. The company already eliminated more than 3,400 jobs to help close their 2010 deficit. Another 210 station agent jobs are eliminated in this year’s plan. Furthermore, the MTA proposed freezing wage increases unconnected to productivity. Subsequently, non-union employees, for the second straight year, will not receive a cost of living raise, according to the MTA.

“The foundation of this plan is the most aggressive and comprehensive overhaul in the history of the MTA,” MTA CEO and Chairman Jay Walder said. “These actions have allowed us to hold true to our commitment regarding fare increases while maintaining the quantity and quality of service that New Yorkers rely on every day. The State’s ongoing fiscal crisis is one of many risks to the plan, but with continued hard work and the participation of our labor unions I believe that this plan can be achieved.”

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