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Commission touts East River tolls to limit transit fare hikes

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The Ravitch Commission Thursday presented its long-awaited plan to rescue New York City mass transit system from its financial straits, suggesting tolls on East River and Harlem Bridges and a payroll tax in 12 counties in and around New York City.

 The plan also called for the MTA to raise fares by 8 percent rather than the 23 percent recently announced by the transit agency.

The commission also said the MTA should be given the right to raise fares no more  frequently than every two years but on its own without public hearings in order to stop what he referred to as “political circuses.”

 “I applaud the commission for finding solutions that rely on the entire region sharing the burden,” Paterson said.

Richard Ravitch, whose efforts brought back the city’s buses  and subways from near ruin 30 years  ago, spoke at a news conference at Gov. David Paterson’s Manhattan office with the governor and Mayor Michael Bloomberg flanking him.

The MTA faces a more than $1.2 billion budget deficit and recently set forth a doomsday plan that included vast cuts in bus and subway service and a 23 percent increase in bus, subway, commuter train fares and tolls on bridges and tunnels.

Ravitch said estimates were that tolls on bridges would bring in around $600 million a year which the commission recommended go toward improving bus service.

Paterson said his administration would immediately draw up legislation toward approving the suggestions of the Ravitch Commission since state Assembly and Senate approval would be required for a number of them.

The payroll tax would levy 33 cents on every $100 and the commission estimated it would raise $1.5 billion annually.

Posted 6:37 pm, October 10, 2011
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