By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Charging that the proposed hike in bus and subway fares would devastate Brooklyn’s business owners, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura testified against a MetroCard increase at a hearing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) held on Nov. 7.
“Last month, the MTA proposed a series of fare increases that would devastate residents and small businesses, particularly those in Southern and Central Brooklyn where transit options are scarce,” Scissura told an MTA panel at the public hearing Wednesday at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge downtown.
The hearing was one of several sessions the MTA will hold to get public feedback before its board votes on the fare increase proposal on Dec. 19. The board is expected to approve a plan to increase transit fares and bridge and tunnel tolls. Several proposals are currently under discussion. The most likely to be approved by the MTA would involve increasing bus and subway fares from $2.25 to $2.50 a ride, transit watchdogs said. The increases would go in to effect in early 2013.
“All the proposed increases would truly hurt the businesses in our borough as we recover and the Brooklyn Chamber strongly opposes any fare or toll increase at this time,” Scissura said.
The fare hikes would take money out of the pockets of business owners, and their customers, Scissura said.
“For riders who use pay-per-ride MetroCards, the proposed increases could mean more than $200 a year in additional costs. For those who use a monthly MetroCard, their total costs could rise $252 a year,” he said.
Scissura predicted a domino effect on businesses should the bridge and tunnel tolls go up. “All these increases would truly hurt businesses and the Brooklyn Chamber is here to fight for you. Even if you don't drive, you should care about a toll increase. Trucks and other vehicles would also have to pay more, which will be reflected in the higher price of shipped goods. That affects all businesses -- big and small -- as we enter 2013. It also affects all of us who shop in the borough and region every day,” he said.
“At a time when the economy is starting to show signs of growth, with national unemployment steadily decreasing and consumer spending rising, any increases would only hamper the positive strides made over the past few months. These increases would stall the economic progress we have made and ensure that businesses are on the fast-track to financial disaster,” the chamber president said.
“Across these various proposals on thing is clear: It's going to cost more than ever to commute. That would be devastating to residents of Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Carnarsie, Marine Park, Mill Basin, and Sheepshead Bay, to name a few, because these areas are so underserved by public transportation. These are also some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Simply put, they can't afford any additional costs as they work to rebuild their businesses and their community,” Scissura said.
MTA officials said the increases are necessary due to rising costs. Among the factors cited by the MTA are increases in the cost of energy, pensions for retirees, and health care. The agency is proposing the increases reluctantly, officials said. “Over the past three years, the MTA has taken unprecedented steps to reduce its costs and manage expenses more efficiently,” an MTA statement read.
Caption for Fifth Ave. bus JPEG.