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Lhota steps down as MTA head while fares set to go up in March

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota is resigning as of the end of the month. Photo by Philip Newman
TimesLedger Newspapers

It’s official: The cost of your ride is going up March 1, and the MTA chairman will be gone by the end of the month.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted unanimously Dec. 19 to approve an array of increases in its fare schedule, including a hike on the 30-day unlimited MetroCard from $104 to $112 and basic fare from $2.25 to $2.50.

The weekly Unlimited MetroCard rises from $29 to $30 and the pay-per-ride bonus goes from 7 percent on a minimum $10 purchase to 5 percent on a minimum $5 purchase.

Commuter fares on the Long Island Rail Road are scheduled to go up from 7.1 percent to 15.3 percent.

Bridge and tunnel tolls will mostly rise by $1.

After a spirited discussion about the premise that the MTA must find more places to get revenue without hitting straphangers so hard, the agency’s board overwhelmingly approved the fare and toll increases — the fourth hike in five years.

Board member Andrew Albert said the New York City transit system — the nation’s largest — gets more of its financial resources from riders than any other transit system in the United States.

The higher fares will bring in at least $450 million, the amount transit finance officials say must be raised to hold the MTA on course.

As for MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, he announced at a news conference immediately after the board meeting that he was resigning as of Dec. 31 to look into the possibility of running for mayor on the Republican ticket

Lhota called it “a life-defining decision.”

Lhota had received widespread praise as result of the speedy return of the city’s flooded and otherwise damaged subway system after Hurricane Sandy.

But Lhota said, “It wasn’t me but rather the thousands of MTA employees who worked endlessly, day and night, to bring our transit system back to running order.”

Lhota, who served as deputy mayor under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has been encouraged to run for mayor by some leading Republicans in the city and business leaders based on his performance following the superstorm.

In the meantime, the MTA chairmanship will be taken over temporarily by Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx president and now an MTA board member, until a permanent replacement is found.

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

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