MTA Committee Votes Yes on Fare Hikes, Board to Vote Wednesday

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An MTA Committee has said 'yes' to mass transit fare hikes. The unanimous vote by the Finance Committee is the first of two approvals needed before a single ride rises to $2.50. Board members say state lawmakers should step in with a rescue plan before the full board votes on Wednesday.

Allen Cappelli, a board member from Staten Island, says time is running out. 'There are 45 hours before this disaster goes into effect and I hope that something will sink in with both the Democrats and the Republicans,' says Cappelli.

Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger struck a conciliatory tone to reporters afterwards, saying he was optimistic that the state Senate would step in to prevent those fares from taking effect. 'They are going to make it happen, I believe, as soon as they can get together and figure out what they as a majority want to do it,' says Hemmerdinger. 'They will do it as soon as they can I'm sure they want to do it as quickly as we want them to do it.'

Commuters at Grand Central Station this afternoon generally didn't like hearing the latest news about train service. Manhattan resident Eileen Conway, 26, who takes the subway regularly, said it comes at the wrong time. 'A lot of people don't have the funds that they did even six months ago and the fact that they are working with less and having to pay more is incredible,' says Conway.

Metro-North riders would also see their fares go up. Cesar Rodriguez takes occasional trips down to Manhattan from his home near Beacon. But he doubts he will come as often if the off-peak fare goes up from $12 to $15 as approved today. 'It's like they don't want you to come down here,' says Rodriguez. 'As soon as you come down they want to hit you over the head right away.'

Governor Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have reached an agreement. But the Democratic majority of the state Senate has rejected the bridge tolls on the East River as a means of helping the MTA, while Republicans are resisting the payroll tax.

Governor Paterson says he doesn't want to delay the board vote, even as he continues negotiating with Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. "All I can do it try to persuade Senator Smith and Senator Smith is trying to persuade me of a different point of view," says Paterson.

Smith opposes the current rescue plan, because it includes putting tolls on East and Harlem River bridges. A spokesman for Smith says talks with the MTA are continuing.

On Wednesday the full MTA board is expected to vote whether to increase fares to close a more than $1 billion budget gap. Staten Islander Debbie Di Domenico says she's disgusted because its getting more expensive but feels like service is going down. "This morning I waited over 40 minutes, then the bus driver was so slow and he was new he missed three stops," says Di Domenico. "I had to walk back about 15 blocks. Then I just got off a train that stunk so bad of urine that I just want to go and get a candle."

Mayor Bloomberg says raising fares is the best option, unless the Senate adopts tolls on bridges that are currently free. "The city’s four votes will go with the governor’s votes to raise fares so that we can continue to provide the services to the extent possible, and even at this level we're going to have to cut them back some," says Bloomberg.

In the current plan, monthly metrocards would go up to $103 and there would be similar increases for other fare media and for tickets on commuter rail roads. The fare hike would go into effect in early June.