THE BRONX - The New York City comptroller is suggesting the MTA explore other alternatives rather than raising subway and bus fares to cut its deficit.

"Dollars are there," Comptroller William Thompson Jr. said. "Rather than asking New York City straphangers to dig in their pockets, the city and state should step up to the plate."

The comptroller believes the MTA can avoid a fare hike, proposed for as early as next year, by tapping into $728 million from the state and city under his proposal. Thompson said although subway ridership has increased, funding from Albany has remained stagnant.

Thompson also recommends the state reconsider how it allocates surpluses from tolls. The money is currently divided equally between the New York City Transit Authority and commuter railroads. Some experts argue since more than half of the people paying tolls live in New York City, more money should go toward the Transit Authority.

MTA officials said they plan on taking some of the comptroller's suggestions to Albany and City Hall. However, some say that will only delay an inevitable fare hike.