New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority took a serious financial hit as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Officials assure riders the cost will NOT be passed on them, but transit advocates say higher fares may be impossible to avoid . Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports
The storm damage tab hangs around the $5 billion dollar mark: Employee overtime coupled with lost fare and toll revenue from the hurricane cost the MTA $268 million dollars. Spokesman Aaron Donovan says the vast majority of expenses resulted from infrastructure damage. The MTA expects to receive 1 billion 75 million dollars from its insurer leaving roughly 3 billion 800 million dollars for FEMA reimbursement Gene Russianoff is staff attorney for NYPIRG's Straphangers Campaign. The transit riders group is keeping a tally of its own The group is wary that the MTA's four-year financial plan for 2013 to 2016, revealed Wednesday, will need a boost from external borrowing, increasing the agency's annual debt service. The Straphangers Campaign says the MTA already spends $2 billion of its $13 billion operating budget on the $31 billion in bonds it has issued. Debt service is projected to go up to $3 billion in future years. Russianoff believes the burden eventually will fall on the riding public - he expects "things will be okay" short term The MTA's Aaron Donovan admits the agency is still being reimbursed for costs incurred from Hurricane Irene in 2011. Superstorm Sandy reimbursement is expected to occur over two or three years - Donovan says Metro North commuters and subway riders should not have to face fare increases above those already planned The Straphangers Campaign is concerned about the MTA's four-year financial plan, which assumes another fare hike of 7.5 percent, continuing a trend of fare hikes every two years, increases that outpace the rate of inflation. Gene Russianoff adds that the group shares the view expressed by MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota that - under any financial plan - new aid from Albany will be needed in the coming years.