Proposed fare hikes have commuters seeing ATM instead of MTA
As the storm outside the Garden City Hotel on Thursday night (Sept 16)raged, a storm of equal intensity was brewing inside.
Long Island commuters and officials fed up of being “the MTA’s ATM” voiced their outrage on Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) proposed fare hikes.
“We’ve heard from thousands and of commuters and their song is the same. We can’t afford to pay up… If you haven’t heard the anger they are, quite frankly, disgusted,” State Sen. Charles Fuschillo said.
Prior to the hearing Fuschillo collected over 3,000 signatures from an online petition against the MTA’s plan to increase fares.
“If you reverse MTA, it’s ATM. And that’s how you’re treating everyone on Long Island and throughout the metropolitan area,” Fuschillo said, his last words nearly drowned out in a tumultuous applause.
Fuschillo was not alone in his outrage.
“The MTA has betrayed my trust and my vote,” said assemblywoman Michelle Schimel. “I feel as though I have given the MTA the keys of my car, only to have them run me over.”
Despite the intense weather over 200 individuals packed into the Garden City Hotel ballroom for the hearing, which was meant attain feedback on the proposed fare increase for January of this coming year. The increaseses include nearly a 10 percent raise on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and as much as $41 on an unlimited monthly MetroCard.
However the enraged commuters took the opportunity not only to express their frustration with the impending fare increases, but to complain about the trials and tribulations they have had to face since Monday’s budget-related service cuts, including the Long Island Bus, LIRR, and the Able-Ride system for disabled commuters.
“There was a period in my life when I didn’t know if I would ever be able to work or ever be able to contribute productively to society, I got past that with the help of able ride,” said Nassau county resident Kevin Christian.
Christian has cerebral palsy, and is a teacher at the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County’s (UCPN) Life Options program. UCPN’s Life options program offers adults with developmental disabilities “the opportunity to achieve their goals and develop life skills”.
“I can’t go back where I’ve been, I can’t even imagine that, and for this to happen… it’s incomprehensible to me, there has to be something that can be done.”
The new schedules are the second phase of budget-related cuts at LIRR. The MTA insists that these service reductions will save an approximate $3.8 million annually and $950,000 this year.
“Those people signed those positions because they have nowhere else to go. You know this, you’ve heard the cries of the community,” said state Sen. Joseph Salon “Our people are over taxed, over worked, and quite frankly, overdone.”
The testimonies of civic leaders, commuters and elected officials went on for hours, long after the storm outside had subsided. Some vented, some yelled and others just pleaded with the panel of MTA board members and executives.
“I would wish that we wouldn’t have higher fares, but I don’t think there is any real option for us right now,” said MTA chairman and chief executive Jay Walder.