The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority warned about reducing or even eliminating unlimited fare and other MetroCard discounts for riders of New York City's subway system, as a means of closing a budget gap.

"We have enormous discounts in the system. And I think we need to look at those discounts, and we need to have, on the entire fare issue, a public debate," Joseph Lhota said in Crain's New York Business, at a forum that the publication sponsored. "There are a lot of people in New York who think our pricing system is mystifying. It shouldn't be."

Lhota said debt service and a spike in health care and pension costs make a fare increase unavoidable, even though the MTA said recently that it would delay a planned 7.5% fare increase until March and restore some cuts to bus and subway service.

The agency in July introduced its preliminary $13 billion budget for fiscal 2013 and a four-year financial plan. Moody's Investors Service rates the MTA Aa2, while Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings each assign equivalent AA ratings.

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