* Long-time NYC public figure Ferrer temporary chairman
* Board approves fare hikes, budget
* Agency to borrow up to $2.5 bln for Sandy repairs
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK, Dec 19 The chairman of New York's
Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Joseph Lhota, will step
down at the end of the year as he considers to run for mayor of
New York City.
His announcement came as MTA's board approved a 2013 budget,
including fare and toll hikes expected to raise $450 million
annually for the struggling agency. The MTA, the biggest
transportation system in the United States, is facing a total
long-term deficit of more than $330 million by 2016.
Lhota, 58, has been chairman and chief executive of the MTA
since last January, and his term was scheduled to end in 2015.
After Superstorm Sandy, he led a quick recovery of the city's
transportation network where numerous subway lines and the
tunnels leading to Manhattan were flooded.
New Yorkers will elect a successor to three-term Mayor
Michael Bloomberg next November. Lhota, who had been deputy
mayor for operations under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is
expected to run on the Republican ticket, according to a source.
"I will be exploring a potential candidacy for the mayor of
New York. This will be a life-defining decision," he said. "I
never expected this to happen".
Fernando Ferrer - the MTA's vice chairman and a former
Democratic Mayoral candidate - will temporary replace Lhota at
the MTA, which operates New York City's subway and bus system,
major bridges and tunnels and commuter railroads.
The MTA voted on Wednesday to borrow up to $2.5 billion in
short-term bond anticipation notes to help cover emergency costs
from Sandy. The MTA said previously it needed to borrow up to
$4.8 billion to cover the cost of repairs and upgrades.
The notes, which the MTA expects to repay with federal
government aid, would not all be issued at once but rather "as
spending dictates," said spokesman Aaron Donovan. The notes will
have a top maturity of five years, he said.
FARE, TOLL HIKES
The board also signed off on fare hikes that will raise the
base price of a subway or bus ride to $2.50 from $2.25. The
price of a 30-day unlimited ride MetroCard will also rise to
$112 from $104.
Tolls for most bridges and tunnels leading to the city will
also be increased, as will the price of a railroad ticket for
travelers to Long Island and the city's northern suburbs.
The hikes will go into effect on March 1. Another hike is
planned for 2015.
"This is another sad day, but ... it's the only option we
have," said board member Mitchell Pally at the meeting.
The MTA's budget will also trim costs by $25 million in 2013
without any plan to cut service. There will be no wage increases
for three years.
The MTA needs other sources of funding to take the weight
off of riders themselves, board members said, adding that the
state and federal government should contribute more.
Subway riders in New York pay a higher percentage of system
costs per ride than people who use any other system in the
United States, Lhota said.
The agency has also appealed an August court decision
striking down a payroll tax that would add $1.5 billion in