(New York -- Jim O'Grady) A fare increase will make almost every form of transit in the New York area more expensive starting Thursday. Subway and bus fares are going up, along with tolls on seven bridges and two tunnels. Prices will also rise on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains.
The base fare for subways and buses remains $2.25. But a monthly unlimited ride will jump from $89 to $104. Seven-day unlimited rides on subways and buses increase from $27 to $29 -- on express buses, from $45 to $50.
Falling to the axe are 14-Day passes and 1-Day Fun Passes. Moral: there will be no more fun in the transit system, even if you could pay for it. Bonuses and discounts on many kinds of tickets will shrink or disappear. For example, the Pay-per-ride bonus is dropping from 15 to 7 percent.
Get ready for more percentages, all of them upward. On the Long Island Rail Road,
most tickets will increase by about seven to nine percent. Metro North fares will rise by up to 14 percent. Exact increases on both systems will depend on ticket type and trip distance.
New tolls take effect at 2 a.m. on December 30. Most river crossings will cost $6.50 in cash and $4.80 with E-Z Pass.
If you already have an unlimited card, it will continue to be valid until its period of use has elapsed. Unlimited cards that haven’t yet been activated must be used on or before January 10 to get their full value. After February 8, all unlimited cards purchased before the new fare regime will become worthless scraps of paper -- or, more benignly, souvenirs of a less expensive time.
Pay-per-ride MetroCards will remain valid until the expiration date on the back. Remember to load the card with at least $10 to trigger the seven percent bonus.
In the second half of 2011, the MTA will begin charging a $1 fee for new MetroCards as an incentive to get riders to re-use their cards. Exception: new cards bought at newsstands or through employers will not have the fee.
There will be no price hike for seniors and disabled riders who qualify for the Reduced-Fare MetroCard of $1.10 or less.
With a fare increase, straphangers must recalculate when it becomes worth it to go from a pay-per-ride to an unlimited card. The magic number is now 50. If you take 50 or more rides per month, go unlimited. Travel less than that and you're better off with pay-per-ride -- again, as long as you refill your card in more than $10 increments.
If you participate in a tax-free transit fare program through your employer, nothing has changed. The benefit will remain $230 per month through 2011, thanks to the recently passed federal tax cut package.
Another commonly asked question at the time of a hefty fare increases is, “Why, sweet mother of all things holy, is this happening to me?”
The big-picture answer is that the 7.5 percent system-wide hike is expected to raise $421 million for the MTA in 2011, which will be set against a projected $900 million budget gap. Glad we cleared that up. Still, be prepared to ask the question again in 2013, when the MTA is planning another 7.5 percent increase.
For more information on changes to MTA fares:
Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.