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MTA Audit Reveals 'Unanticipated' Surplus Of Nearly $2 Billion

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- An audit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by the New York state comptroller has found the transit agency has $1.9 billion in "unanticipated funds."

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Friday the MTA's financial footing is stronger than anticipated seven months ago.

"The good news is that the MTA is in better shape than it's been in a period of time," DiNapoli told WCBS 880. "They've identified $1.9 billion in unanticipated resources that will be available over the course of the financial plan."

He said the MTA is planning on using the funds to improve service and maintenance, reduce projected budget gaps and help fund the next capital program.

He said while those goals were worthy, the MTA should also consider shrinking a planned 15 percent fare hike over three years.

"We're suggesting to consider reexamining the scheduled increases in fares in tolls," DiNapoli said. "When you look at how those increases have been implemented, it has exceeded the rate of inflation. We certainly know how hard-pressed riders are that use the MTA facilities, so with an improved outlook, perhaps it's time to reconsider those fare and toll increases that are scheduled."

DiNapoli said the $1.9 billion came from lower pension contributions, energy costs, debt service, health insurance costs and higher tax revenues.

The audit also found tolls have risen faster than inflation over the past six years.

Back in April, transit advocates urged the MTA to use a $40 million surplus based on the MTA state operating budget to create a "Service Restoration and Enhancement Fund," which would be used to restore some of the bus and subway service cut in 2010 and increase existing service further.

The 2010 cuts eliminated two subway lines – the V and the W – as well as 34 express bus routes. Weekend and off-peak service was also reduced, the alliance said.

The alliance also wanted the MTA to use the surplus funds to add Long Island Rail Road service during the late-shoulder evening rush hour, and add reverse peak and off-peak service on the Metro-North.

But no such service increases took place.

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