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Spitzer balks at fare hikes in N.Y. City Says hands are tied on Thruway increase

Just one day after declaring he has no current control over Thruway Authority plans to raise tolls on its upstate highway, Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer rejected a similar proposal by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to increase charges on subways, buses, bridges and tunnels in the New York City area.

Speaking to reporters Monday in Buffalo, the governor pointed out that, since appointees of his predecessor, George E. Pataki, still run the Thruway Authority's board, he can do little at the moment except monitor the situation.

"I'm not in a position to mandate one way or another what the Thruway Authority does," Spitzer said.

But Tuesday, he clearly indicated he will not support a proposed increase, to $2.25 from $2, in transit fares, as well as toll increases for bridges and tunnels.

"We will save the $2 fare," Spitzer said at a news conference in Manhattan, where he was joined by H. Dale Hemmerdinger, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's chairman, and Elliot G. Sander, its executive director.

In "the current economic climate that has so many New Yorkers feeling squeezed," passing on savings of $220 million, identified in the latest budget forecasts, to riders seems "only proper," Spitzer said.

"I am, therefore, calling on the MTA to use these funds to reduce the proposed fare and toll increase," Spitzer said. "This reduction will ease the burden for the millions of New Yorkers who use the MTA's transportation network every day and will allow the MTA to hold the base fare for subways and buses to $2."

Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for Spitzer, said the MTA situation is different because Spitzer had appointed Hemmerdinger and Sander. The authority's Web site lists no other Spitzer appointees among voting members.

Christine Pritchard, also a spokeswoman for the governor, said he has yet to appoint anyone to the Thruway Authority board because the terms of those named by Pataki have yet to expire.

On the Thruway, tolls are scheduled to rise by 10 percent in January for those who pay cash. An authority committee recently recommended additional toll increases of 5 percent each in 2009 and 2010.

Spitzer said Monday that he is mindful of the hardship caused by raising tolls on the 641 miles of the state's main interstate highway. He also did not rule anything in or out for the Thruway.

"I share the anxiety and the frustrations that all Thruway toll payers pay," he said. "I will tell you we will do everything we can to keep that toll bill down as low as possible, mindful of the need to invest in our infrastructure and to expand and maintain the Thruway."


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