The MTA will wait until at least 2024 to contemplate raising transit fares, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Monday.
Speaking from Albany International Airport before flying to Washington for the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Hochul said the additional federal dollars had allowed transit officials to stave off raising costs for straphangers for at least two years.
“We’ve done the numbers and as a result of the money we’ll be receiving from the president signing the bill today … we anticipate that there’ll be no fare hikes for the MTA,” the governor said. “Especially in this era of inflation, when it just seems when you’re just trying to get your head above water … I’m really excited to say that we will not have to raise the fares or have any service cuts.”
Subway ridership cratered during the COVID-19 pandemic and remains well below pre-pandemic levels, causing a huge dent in the MTA’s finances. Board members voted in January to delay biennial fare increases — which are not required by law — but opted to raise tolls on bridges and tunnels. They decided over the summer that the freeze would extend until at least the end of the year.
Appearing outside the MTA’s monthly board committee meetings, Transportation Authority Chairman Janno Lieber said the fare freeze would last “at least six months.”
Lieber said his team had managed to avoid increasing fares thanks not only to the infrastructure bill but to COVID-19 relief packages passed in 2020 and 2021. The MTA just reached an agreement with New Jersey on how to split the pot.
“That was resolved with the governor’s leadership a week or so ago. Now that that money has been released — we’ve got that money coming to us actually — we’re able to put it in literally cash flow,” he told reporters. “We want people to come back. Incentivizing people to come back means maintaining the pretty robust service that we have, and it also means that, for the time being, we need to stand on fare.”
The MTA still faces a budget hole “a couple years out” that the state legislature will have to figure out how to close, Lieber said — and the MTA is concerned that fare hikes could have an adverse effect on ridership.
“We’re taking fare hikes off the table for at least six months and maybe well beyond that,” he added. “The real issue that [what] we’ve got to do is get ridership back — and we don’t want to discourage people from coming back.”