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NFTA HEARING DRAWS AUDIENCE OF ONE PROPOSED 15-CENT FARE HIKE HEADS FOR ACTION BY THE BOARD MONDAY

An NFTA official had just finished addressing an almost-empty auditorium at a hearing today on a proposed $90.3 million budget and 15-cent fare hike when a member of the public arrived. He was the only one.

"I'm amazed at the public not being here," said Samuel A. Herbert of Buffalo. "They deserve what they get.

"I'm disappointed when the NFTA has a 9 a.m. meeting hour instead of in the evening when people can come. But I'm more angry at the public who ride the buses everyday for not being here."

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority board will consider a proposed budget Monday that chooses to raise fares rather than cut service.

The fare hike, which would increase the cost of a bus or Metro Rail ride to $1.25, is the first increase since 1989.

Officials have said the increase, which also raises the cost of a transfer by a nickel and hikes the price of monthly passes, will bring in $1.2 million this year and $1.6 million in 1996.

If approved by the board, it will go into effect July 1.

The NFTA is being caught in a situation where it is being required to provide costly transit service to disabled riders at the same time its federal subsidies are being cut, officials say.

Herbert, who has run unsuccessfully for several city and county offices, recommended a 5-cent fare increase coupled with trims in NFTA salaries.

He suggested that more service should be provided to outlying areas for city residents, particularly now that downtown has lost its last major department store.

"I don't think the NFTA is providing the services that justify this increase," he said.

Robert Rakoczy, NFTA marketing director, said more public hearings will be held in mid-May on the proposed fare hike should the board approve it.

"At that point, I expect more public testimony and opinion," he said.

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