If the report released yesterday by the city's Independent Budget Office is true, it could get a lot more expensive to ride the MTA subways and buses in the future. The IBO believes that the MTA has to increase its revenues by 20% by 2010. That means subway and bus fares could go up at least 20% by 2010, making a single ride $2.40. The worst case scenario - where rates for other revenue sources are not increased - has subway and bus fares jumping to almost $3. The price of a monthly metrocard would would jump from $76 to $112. A weekly card would go from $24 to $36. The last increase in fares was in 2004.

Why the drastic increase in subway and bus fares? Years of borrowing money for improvements in the system has resulted in mounting debts. The agency faces projected deficits of $800 million in 2008, $1.4 billion in 2009, and $1.8 billion in 2010. For 2007, there is a projected surplus of $270 million. In previous years, the MTA has often projected a deficit (though you can never trust them), only to have a surplus at the end of the year because of real estate tax revenue that was more than projected. This may change in the coming years, according to the IBO's report (full .pdf report).

Gean Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, who asked the IBO to review the MTA's budget, said that Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan could keep the fares from rising so drastically. "We call on Gov. Eliot Spitzer for help, especially in pressing for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal to help bring billions to the transit system."

The MTA is to announce its budget plans next month, but Executive Director Elliot Sander has already asked departments within the agency to cut 4% from their budgets. The Post mentions some other ideas from the IBO that could generate revenue: 1/8% increase in sales tax (additional $236 million), include co-ops in the mortgage-recording tax (additional $140 million), raising state aid to the maximum level (additional $444 million).

Photograph by Triborough on Flickr