Proposed Rate Hikes Hurt Commuters’ Pockets

By Kendra Jackson

Proposed fare hikes by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could cost Westchester residents and Mercy College commuters to pay more money for the Metro North and Westchester’s Bee-Line bus service.

At a hearing held by the MTA and the Westchester County Department of Transportation this month, Westchester resident Claire Kiely told the MTA that they should be able to find more savings by rebidding contracts for multi-million dollar train station rehabilitations.

Kiely stated that the fare increase was huge and would take out about nine percent of her income.

Metro-North spokesperson Marjorie Anders rebutted publicly by stating that the contracts have been rebid for lower costs, but Kiely still felt that more savings could be found.

She was not the only one.

Tarrytown resident Christine Nieves was outraged when she found out that the monthly pass for the MTA’s Metro-North railroad trains from Scarsdale to Grand Central Terminal would rise to $243 from $191, an increase of $52.

“This is ridiculous, and I absolutely agree with Ms. Kiely. It seems as if they’re always increasing fares and this was happening before the recession even took place,” said Nieves.

Instead of increasing fares, other suggestions were made at the hearing such as charging subway fares by zones instead of a flat rate and combining the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North

The MTA states that the proposed fare hike would start in June, along with service cuts. They feel that they have little choice, but will do what is necessary to accommodate Westchester commuters.

The increased fare affects the Westchester’s Bee-Line bus service as well as the Metro-North and New York subways and bus service.

White Plains resident Tynejha Johnson stated that if fares would increase any more, then everybody who lives in Westchester is going to have to find an alternative method for transportation until the fare reduces.

Under the proposal, the single ride ticket or cash fare could rise from $2 to $3 and the 30-day unlimited Metro-Card would cost $103 from a previous increase of $81.

“I remember when the unlimited Metro-Card used to cost $76, and now I will have to pay $103? We need to do more than just attend some ‘hearings’ to get them to listen to us or the prices are stilling going to increase,” stated Johnson.

The MTA is going to hold eight hearings in total, yet only one in Westchester.

“The fare hike is totally unaffordable for Mercy College students and that it would possibly be better for students to start thinking about driving instead of using the MTA,” said Emily Chang, a junior at Mercy.

The Transportation Commissioner of Westchester, Larry Salley, said that the county could do nothing about the increases because the bus service is tied into the Metro-Card System used by the MTA.

“I do understand that it is not possible for the commissioner to do anything, but we as Westchester residents should have a say in this since we are paying taxes like everyone else,” stated Chang. “It is not fair to me or any other commuters that use the Metro-North to go to school.”

MTA officials are hoping to get some aid from the state. They have called legislators to pass recommendations made by former MTA head Richard Ravitch.

Nieves also feels that the proposed fare hike can also possibly start another strike with the MTA if fares don’t stop increasing, a threat that Salley states will not likely prevent an increase.

“This is not something the county supports…as a matter of policy, the county does not favor raising fares, but we are required to adhere to the fare structure imposed by the MTA,” said Salley.