2008-12-24 / Seniors

Paterson's Budget, MTA Access-A-Ride Fare Hike Hurt Seniors

Seniors would take a double battering from proposals advanced by Governor David Paterson in his $121 billion 2009 budget and under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority budget offered for approval last Wednesday.

The Paterson executive budget, which will undergo scrutiny and probable changes at hearings to be held by the state legislature before final passage scheduled for next April 1, calls for reductions in nursing home care and home care reimbursements under Medicaid.

The governor also would eliminate an enhanced New York City personal income tax credit under the STAR program. The STAR exemption program reduces assessed property values and results in lowered property taxes.

As for the MTA budget, it would more than double the cost of Access-A-Ride from $2 to $5 each trip.

City Comptroller William Thompson, testifying before the MTA Board of Directors, called on the Bloomberg mayoral administration to reject the increase on Access-A-Ride fares under a 1993 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the MTA which requires the mayor's approval before any increase in that fare could occur.

Photo by Dominick Totino Office of the Queens Borough President Queens Borough President Helen Marshall (l) tells MTA board members during public hearing at MTA headquarters, Wednesday, December 17 that proposed fare hikes will provide a "bitter pill" for Queens residents during a difficult economic time. Photo by Dominick Totino Office of the Queens Borough President Queens Borough President Helen Marshall (l) tells MTA board members during public hearing at MTA headquarters, Wednesday, December 17 that proposed fare hikes will provide a "bitter pill" for Queens residents during a difficult economic time. Addressing the proposed Access-ARide fare increase, Thompson said it would "likely" jump from $2 to $5 because it is pegged to the base price for a subway or bus ride.

Since the subway fare is due to increase by about 23 percent under the MTA's demands, the Access-A-Ride fare would go up by about 250 percent.

"Raising the fares would place an incredible burden on people who already are, as a group, among the most economically vulnerable New Yorkers. Under the MOU, the mayor has the legal power to stop this increase from moving forward," Thompson said.

"I call on both the MTA and the city to do the right thing for Access-A-Ride users."

The Access-A-Ride proposal was also attacked by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, among others, who felt it would hurt seniors and the disabled who might also be penalized by the subway fare increase and the imposition of bridge tolls, of which MTA officials are seeking approval.

Marshall stated her position in her testimony at the MTA hearing, which preceded the affirmative vote for the budget by the MTA Board of Directors.

The borough president called Access- A-Ride "one of the lifelines of our transportation system in Queens". The service is used for transportation to and from doctor visits and for many other purposes by 30,000 Queens seniors, Marshall said, and thousands of disabled persons.

Doubling the price of the trip, she said, "would have a debilitating impact on our seniors and disabled riders who are forced to depend on Access-A-Ride for curb-tocurb transportation".

The borough president also noted that most seniors live on a fixed income "and the doubling of this fare would cause undue hardship for them".

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