fare hikes and servicecuts

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In a release, Thompson says his weight-based fee plan wouldgenerate more than $1 billion in annual regional revenue for theMTA while promoting energy independence and reducing parkingproblems in New York City neighborhoods. Additionally, Thompsonsays, bringing back the commuter tax would produce approximately$762 million in annual revenue. The tax generated as much as $360million annually in the 33 years it was in effect.

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Thompson's weight-based fee plan would cover private andcommercial vehicles in all 12 New York counties served by the MTA.It would assess a fee of $100 for vehicles weighing 2,300 lbs. orless, plus $0.09 for every pound of curb weight over 2,300. Forexample, the 2,293-lb. Toyota Yaris would cost an additional $100to register, while the nearly three-ton Lincoln Navigator wouldcost an additional $430. The fee would be assessed on top of theflat vehicle use tax of $30 every two years and existingweight-based state registration fees.

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The fee could be phased in over time, thereby allowing residentsto take the fee into account when deciding what vehicle to buy,Thompson says in a release, noting that such decisions would bedriven in part by considerations of fuel efficiency. He adds thatNew Yorkers who own cars generally have higher incomes and thatlower-income New Yorkers would be less affected by the feestructure than by higher transit fares.

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"Once again, the MTA is looking to New Yorkers to cover itsbudget shortfalls while simultaneously cutting services anddelaying key projects," Thompson says in a statement. "Instead ofasking New Yorkers to dig deeper into their pockets to ride thesubway or bus, we need creative approaches to address our transitneeds." That sentiment is shared by the Tri-State TransportationCampaign, whose executive director, Kate Slevin, tells GlobeSt.com,"We applaud him for making these proposals. We want there to beadditional measures to increase revenue aside from raisingfares."

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Slevin made that point in her testimony during the Nov. 20 MTAboard meeting where the authority's 2009 budget plan was announced.She tells GlobeSt.com that while her testimony did not specificallyendorse the revival of the commuter tax, "Everybody who uses thecity's services has to share in the pain of higher costs, and thiswould be a way to share it equitably."

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Unlike the weight-based fee, the commuter tax would apply tocommuters from outside New York State. Gov. Jodi Rell ofConnecticut has vowed to fight the tax, and New York Gov. DavidPaterson has reportedly stated his opposition to it.

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.