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MTA looking at fare hikes in 2013

Much of the MTA’s new three-year financial plan is based on the hope that certain conditions will endure or not happen but two things appear certain: fare hikes in 2013 and 2015.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board met July 27 and listened to an exhaustive explanation from MTA Finance Officer Robert Foran of what the transit agency faces over the next three years.

The new financial plan includes two 7.5 percent bus and subway fare increases and no service cuts, but it recommends the borrowing of $7 billion, a move that brought warnings of possible fiscal doom from Vice Chairman Albert Saul, who heads the MTA board’s Finance Committee.

“This is not on anybody else’s back, but it’s on the riders’ backs with all the potential liabilities,” Saul said, adding that the recommended borrowing would bring the MTA’s debt to $36 billion.

“To me, this is an absolute ticking time bomb.”

Saul said “the new financial plan would also assume that money earmarked for the transit agency is not grabbed by the state as was the case in the recent past. It recommends selling off real estate such as the MTA’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters building and persuading its dozens of labor unions to agree to give up pay raises for three years.”

The MTA not only has to have enough money to operate mass transit, but to keep construction going on its two capital projects: the Second Avenue subway and the East Side Access to bring the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal. Money for the two huge projects is due to run out at the end of this year.

The plan is mostly tentative at this time with few details on how much MetroCard fares, including 30-day cards, would go up in cost or other information such as the future cost of commuter train fares and the rise in tolls for using bridges and tunnels.

“It would seem that in coming months this plan will change from what we are seeing today,” said board member Susan Metzger.

A final vote on the plan will be held in December.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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