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MTA to Cut Back on Bulk Discounts

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Some straphangers are going to feel the next MTA fare hike more than others.

While the details are still being worked out, sources say that monthly card holders could face a 10 percent or 11 percent jump, to just under $100, starting in January. Meanwhile, the authority is planning to keep the base fare flat at $2.25 for a bus or subway ride.

Other measures will also have the effect of punishing frequent users of the system--or at least those who buy in bulk. Riders who use pay-per-ride MetroCards and load up with $8 or more at a time now get a 15 percent discount. That would drop to just 10 percent. Effectively, that means fares are going up from $1.96 to $2.05 a ride.

What's more, the so-called unlimited cards could end up getting limited. A monthly card would be tapped out after 90 rides.

Sources say the MTA is taking these measures because it wants to even out some of the uneven hikes in the past, which have benefited monthly card holders more than, for instance, weekly card holders. Placing a limit on monthly cards is supposed to cut down on super-users, the roughly 2 percent of subway and bus riders who use their cards 100 times or more a month (and pay less than a dollar a ride).

But Bill Henderson, the executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, disagrees with that proposal. He says limiting the unlimited cards will affect more than just the messengers who use the system several times a day.

"There will be people who will never get close to 90 who will think, 'Should I buy this? Because if I use this too many times, it won't work any more,'" he says. "If you start with some of these changes, they do erode that sense of being able to use this as my way to get around town."

The MTA in a statement said the fare hike proposal would be unveiled later this month and could well change as public hearings are held this fall. The authority reiterated that it's trying to keep the increase to 7.5 percent--as measured by how much it will yield the MTA in additional revenue. The average increase felt by straphangers will be slightly higher because some people will cut back on usage to save money.

"The rescue agreement reached with the Governor and Legislature last spring called for a 7.5 percent increase in revenues from MTA fares and tolls in January 2011, and despite an $800 million budget shortfall caused by deteriorating tax revenues, it has always been our intention to try to adhere to this agreement," the statement said.

Tolls and commuter railroad fares would increase from about 8 to 10 percent in order to reach the 7.5 percent yield.

The fare hike will be the third in three years.