“Stop The Fare Hike� Campaign

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[City News]

A coalition of state legislators, city officials, and civic groups took to the steps of City Hall recently to announce their campaign to put a stop to the proposed MTA fare increase.

As Gene Russianoff, attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, explained, they were releasing a letter signed by 22 New York State Assemblymembers asking MTA leaders to delay a fare hike – if there has to be one at all – until April 15, 2008 so the issue can be debated in the legislature during budget negotiations. “Then they would have a chance to provide additional state funds to avoid a fare increase instead of it being a done deal where the MTA raises the fare before any options can be considered,” Russianoff said.

Among the speakers was New York City Comptroller William Thompson, who declared, "It seems that every day we hear about yet another increase, rising costs that are making it more difficult to make ends meet, to put food on the table, and to be able to get to work and home each day. But before New Yorkers are asked to dip into their pockets and pocketbooks, we are asking the MTA to not rush ahead prematurely.”

He said it’s imperative that they look at any and all sources of revenue that can be applied to eliminate – or at least minimize – any fare or toll increase in the immediate future.

Hakeem Jeffries, who represents Brooklyn’s 57th Assembly District, spoke about his district’s subway service, which is, at best, inconsistent. “Now is not the time to impose a fare increase,” he stated emphatically. “The skyrocketing cost of living in New York City is suffocating working class and middle class neighborhoods. The MTA should not be looking to balance its budget on the backs of average New Yorkers who cannot afford it.”

The letter to the MTA backs that up, noting that many of the most vulnerable of the City’s residents would bear the brunt of any increase.  For the home health aide, teaching assistant, or cook, for example, a fare hike would be a serious hardship. Under one of the MTA’s options, the annual cost of city subway and bus fares could rise more than $170 for rush-hour riders.

The letter also points out that there are many strong reasons for increasing government aid to the MTA. For one thing, there has been no permanent new state operating aid to MTA New York City Transit in at least a dozen years. “We believe it’s time for the state to do better by commuters and straphangers,” say the Assemblymembers.  “We believe we can, working together, save the fare.  We believe that, as leaders of the MTA, you should join us in asking for more government support.”

Among the many City Councilmembers there to show their support for the initiative were Robert Jackson, Annabel Palma, Al Vann, Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Larry Seabrook and Maria Baez. Council Member John Liu, Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, called a fare hike tantamount to a tax increase which should be enacted as far into the future as possible. Council Member Kendall Stewart said that along with giving the state legislature a chance to look into the matter and see what they can do, he thought the City Council should also see if they can find some money in the City’s $60 billion budget to put into the MTA’s coffers to help prevent a fare hike.

"Fare increases are a last resort," stated Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, chairman of the State Assembly's Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee. "After 12 years of neglect under the Pataki administration, we want to work with the MTA and the city and state governments to change the failed policies of the past."


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