It’s official. With no bailout from Albany, the M.T.A.’s board has approved the “doomsday” budget that would hike fares by about 25 percent—the base subway fare would be $2.50—and impose major service cuts.
Still, the drama continues, as this was not actually the drop-dead deadline for avoiding the fare hike. As many M.T.A. board members noted, the board can take back the action should Albany agree on a new funding package. The fare hikes are slated to go into effect in June, while the service cuts would start earlier.
Fingers were pointed clearly at the Capitol.
“This is an extremely difficult day for everyone,” Lee Sander, the M.T.A.’s executive director, said in his prepared remarks before the board vote. “The fare increases and service cuts that the board must approve today are the only major tools Albany has given the board.”
Jeff Kay, a mayoral appointee on the board and director of the mayor’s Office of Operations, was rather pessimistic, suggesting that even if there is a rescue, it will only be a short-term fix that doesn’t get at the root of the problem (not enough long-term reliable funding).
It’s possible, Kay said, that “they’ll come through with what’s politically expedient, which is, make sure fare hikes don’t go into effect.” But even so, “we will be back in two months saying we still have a problem if they just do the politically expedient thing.”