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MTA Gives Riders 2 Choices in Fare Hikes

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The MTA is giving monthly and weekly MetroCard users a choice: higher fares or higher fares.

As previously reported, the MTA is proposing to limit the number of times that riders can use weekly and monthly MetroCards. But in the fare hike plan that’s being made public Wednesday, the MTA is presenting a second option that would make the MetroCards more expensive but keep them unlimited. The MTA will then judge the public’s reaction to the two ideas and choose one of the two plans.

Under the first option, the cost of the 30-day card would increase from the current $89 to $99 but it would be capped at 90 rides a month, according to MTA officials. The second option would boost the cost of the card to $104. But MTA officials say they won’t be able to offer both once the fare hikes take effect January 1 because even the $104 plan relies on less frequent users subsidizing the frequent users.

The weekly card, under Option A, would go from $27 to $28 and be capped at 22 rides over a seven-day period; or, under Option B, the cost would rise to $29 and the card would remain unlimited. According to the MTA, the average MetroCard user takes 59 trips with the 30-day card and 16 with a seven-day card. Only 7 percent of the 30-day cards are used more than 90 times a month—but the MTA is essentially leaving it up to straphangers to judge whether it’s psychologically—if not financially—worth it to have the freedom to use the cards as much as they want.

WHICH METROCARD IS BEST FOR ME?
  Now Proposed Option A Proposed Option B
30-day MetroCard $89 for unlimited rides $90 for no more than 90 rides $104 for unlimited rides
Cost per ride if card is:
Used 55x/month $1.62 $1.80 $1.89
Used 90x/month $0.99 $1.10 $1.16
Used 110x/month $0.81 N/A $0.95
Currently, 30-day MetroCards are used 59 times on average, according to the MTA
Which option do you prefer? Please post your comments below.

Across the board, bus and subway fares would go up about 8 percent, which is in line with an agreement struck last year with Gov. David Paterson and the state legislature. That deal also calls for a fare hike in January 2013. These two fare hikes were one of the little-noticed aspects of the so-called state bailout, but it fulfilled a long sought-after goal of the MTA, which is to have the state’s sanction to raise fares regularly and modestly, with as little political opposition as possible, as opposed to having to approve much larger increases every four or five years.

But Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign transit advocacy group, has already taken aim at the proposal, saying that the governor’s deal last year no longer applies since the MTA enacted service cuts last month.

“Riders are being asked to pay more for less, given the tens of millions of dollars in service cuts the MTA put into effect in late June,” Russianoff said in an e-mail. “The combination of fare increase and service cuts mean that riders will likely end up paying a higher share of the costs of running the transit system.”

MTA staff will also on Wednesday unveil next year’s proposed budget, showing expenses rising by about 2.4 percent from this year to next. Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran says the main drivers for the increase are pension costs, union salaries and rising debt payments. He said that non-unionized employees have had their salaries frozen in 2009 and 2010. Last August, MTA’s unions won an 11.3 percent wage increase over three years, retroactive to April 2009.

MTA officials say they have tempered the increases for fare media that are used frequently by lower-income riders in order to make the average cost per ride more equitable. The users of monthly cards have a median household income of $63,000 a year, while people who buy their rides singly have a median income of $36,000.

Under the proposal, the base fare would remain at $2.25, though riders will be slapped with a 25-cent surcharge for buying a single-ride ticket from a machine. Riders would be able to avoid that surcharge by buying the cards from a bodega or other private distributor. Or they would fill up their MetroCards at machines—though each time they buy a new MetroCard, they will be charged $1. Riders will be encouraged to refill old MetroCards. Officials say the $1 surcharge wouldn’t go into effect next summer and will also apply to monthly and weekly cards, which will, by that point, be reprogrammed to become re-usable.

The discount for pay-per-ride MetroCards would also decrease, from 15 percent to just 7 percent, making each ride purchased with those cards go from $1.96 to $2.10, or an increase of about 7 percent. In order to qualify for the discount, customers would have to add at least $10 in value to the cards, compared to $7 today. (That's an even smaller discount than WNYC and other media had previously reported.)

The full MTA board will hear the proposal at its monthly meeting Wednesday morning. Public hearings will likely be held in September, after which the MTA may make adjustments to the proposal in time for final MTA board approval in October. Fares on MetroNorth and the Long Island Rail Road are expected to go up between 7.6 percent and 9.4 percent. Tolls on major bridges would increase by 50 cents, to $6, while their cost with an E-ZPass would rise from $4.57 to $5.04.

Also, as WNYC reported previously, the one-day Fun Pass and 14-day cards would be dropped.

You can e-mail comments on the fare proposal to the MTA here.

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Comments [20]

From Low to Middle from BX

@ HTwoWhoa from 10011

Obviously you can afford to live in Manhattan...but how about the other people in this city who dont? How about those who make the minimum wage....? How about the single mothers on welfare that are traveling their children to daycare so they can go to school and get out of welfare? How about all the other people that cannot afford $200 like you can...are you going to buy their metro-cards? Please keep that in mind and place your self in the shoes of the majority of people in NYC which are low to middle class struggling to make ends meet.
Thank you.

Sep. 13 2010 09:35 AM
Josh C. from Brooklyn

While it's true there are more expensive subway systems in the world, they're often better equipped, cleaner and more reliable. You get your dollars worth. This is not the case with the mta and anyone whose needed to sit next to a smelly drunkard, your feet sticking to the floor in a crowded train car with a broken ac and the lights turned off (yes in 2010 new subway cars) when its packed during rush hour and you get stopped in the middle of the tunnel hearing a loud speaker announcement thanking me for my patience repeatedly for 20 minutes making me late for work only to encounter an exodus of people at the next stop forcefully squeezing them selves in and then having It happen again and again until you have to fight your way off experiencing awkward brushes against people who have nasty attitudes, you my friend can agree these people behind the hikes clearly have no idea what they're doing and certainly are to over paid to care. What ever I can use the exercise, Williamsburg bridge here I come.

Sep. 07 2010 10:31 PM
Leah

I just don't understand why or how the MTA can raise rates on decreased service. Maybe if the machines consistently worked, the G train ran, buses still ran crosstown and trains made late night stops at intervals less than 20 minutes, I could see actually paying more money for service. Let's not get started on the access to mass transit for the disabled. The MTA has consistently decreased the quality of these already ancient subways. Thanks for the fare increase, but I'll now ride my bike. See what you do without my $1248 a year with the proposed rates.

Aug. 16 2010 03:07 PM
Billo from Manhattan

To me, its a no-brainer to have a $104 unlimited card instead of a $99 card with a cap (the $90 amount quoted in the table is wrong BTW). I probably fall well under the 90 ride threshold but I'd rather have the piece of mind knowing I can ride as much as I want for one price. If this cap is put in place it's going to effectively be a surtax on lower income people and freelancers who have to ride the subway from job to job to make money, not people like me who have an office job and typically incur 2 rides per day. I'm happy "subsidizing" more frequent riders, even at $130/month I'd still think this was a good deal. They really ought to simply raise the price of a single ride as well, rather than doing goofy things like charging a 50 cent surcharges on
Honestly, you probably won't find a cheaper Metro system almost anywhere else in the world. I pretty much pay nothing to ride the subway right now with the pre-tax commuter benefit in place. No one likes price increases so they will always complain, but artificially low prices are at least partially to blame for the deficit.

Jul. 29 2010 02:11 PM
Gary from Queens - Manhattan Commuter

The MTA needs alternative ideas to keeping costs down instead of raising fares. Moreover, if the MTA operated like a private company--how many senior staff would already be fired if they're unable to meet cost/profit quotas. We seriously need reform. I'm tired of paying more while service and standards are being reduced.

Jul. 29 2010 11:03 AM
TN

I'm more than ok with having a limit placed on the unlimited Metro card if it means that the fare will only increase by $1. I mean, goodness, didn't we already have a hike last year plus we lost service in some areas! At this rate, I'm going to have to get another job just to pay for metro cards...

Jul. 29 2010 10:45 AM
Susan from Manhattan

Like Emily, I work in the theatre arts, and must use my (unlimited) card at least six days a week. Perhaps the MTA could acknowledge the contributions and revenue that the theatres (and other artists, journalists, social workers, etc.)bring to NYC and give us a break on the unlimited Metrocard. Besides, as New York City residents who pay taxes, aren't all of us already subsidizing non-residents who use our subway system.

Jul. 28 2010 08:24 PM
Andrew from Brooklyn

I just think it's not right. Pretty much on average 3 rides per day? Who uses 3 per day? Just going to work and home pretty much kills that. What about everything else? Personally I ride up to 6 times a day from home to work and home to school. I can barely afford $89 I can't afford anything more.

Jul. 28 2010 03:20 PM
Sam from Brooklyn

I vote yes for charging for each metrocard.

As for the so-called unlimited options, I guess I'd go for the 90-ride version. It's hard to rationalize charging everyone more so that the 7% who use unlimited cards more than 90 times per month can get a good per-ride discount.

Jul. 28 2010 02:00 PM
Dennis from Bronx

At least they're giving us the choice. I don't think I'll need the 'real' unlimited so 90 rides might suffice. If not, I guess I'll have to pay the extra $5.
However, maybe we all need to pay more attention to those who cheat the system, particularly those who sneak onto the back of buses along with students on Bronx buses I travel.

Jul. 28 2010 12:51 PM
StatenIsland123 from Staten Island

I have been disabled twice in the past 3 years. I use a one day fun pass when I visit friends and shop in the city. My mobility has been limited and I use a combination of subways and buses, sometimes taking a bus for only a few blocks. I have used a one day fun pass 8-12 times in a day.
This card was supposed to attract tourists, yet when I talk to tourist they know nothing about it. Marketing problem of the MTA? The MTA seems to be more concerned about the people who buy a dozen cards and sell swipes for less than the fare (The cards can be reused in 17 minutes). Why not just extend the time the card can be used at the same STATION? Why not set up roving cameras in the unmanned token booths and then look for times of day to prevent misuse?
I have often found cards with several fares left on the card. How many lost cards that were paid for with cash are never used? Isn't that "income" for the MTA. Does that show up in their accounting?

Jul. 28 2010 12:33 PM
StatenIsland123 from Staten Island

I have been disabled twice in the past 3 years. I use a one day fun pass when I visit friends and shop in the city. My mobility has been limited and I use a combination of subways and buses, sometimes taking a bus for only a few blocks. I have used a one day fun pass 8-12 times in a day.
This card was supposed to attract tourists, yet when I talk to tourist they know nothing about it. Marketing problem of the MTA? The MTA seems to be more concerned about the people who buy a dozen cards and sell swipes for less than the fare (The cards can be reused in 17 minutes). Why not just extend the time the card can be used at the same STATION? Why not set up roving cameras in the unmanned token booths and then look for times of day to prevent misuse?
I have often found cards with several fares left on the card. How many lost cards that were paid for with cash are never used? Isn't that "income" for the MTA. Does that show up in their accounting?

Jul. 28 2010 12:19 PM
bob from Manhattan

I use the metro card far more than 90 times a month, so capping the monthly card at 90 would be a hardship for me. I am also thinking of the many people living in the outer boroughs out of work who need the metro card to come into the city for interviews, the increases would only add more anxiety to their lives. Finally, my understanding is that the MTA board is appointed by the Governor. Shouldn't the citrizens of NY be writing letters to Andrew Cuomo, asking him to, if he is elected, appoint a board that has more in common with the average rider than this one. The MTA, after all, is supposed to be an agency created to "serve the public", not a remote group of people, mainly wealthy, who have little in common with the average rider.

Jul. 28 2010 11:45 AM
Emily from Manhattan Valley

This is something that could seriously hurt me. I'm a stage manager, and as a freelancer, I'm frequently working on more than one production at once. I might have a meeting or interview in the morning and a performance in the evening, or a daytime rehearsal for one show followed by an evening performance for another. Or I frequently get temp work in the daytime. Or if I have only one daytime rehearsal and want to go out with friends at night. In other words, I'm FREQUENTLY using 3 or more (a particularly long day once took me 6) rides per day; I could very easily exceed the 90 ride limit in a normal month for me. And my pay barely covers my expenses as it is; I do not make a lot of money and I do not live lavishly.

The people who are going to be hurt the worst by this are people who have to work more than one job: low-income people, students, and freelancers.

The MTA seems intent on pushing people like me out of the city, and I don't see any of our elected officials standing up for us.

Jul. 28 2010 10:47 AM
Waldo from Manhattan

I pay $3 for a card to do laundry in my building. There's no reason that there shouldn't be a charge for Metrocards. There are probably truckloads of metrocards going to Fresh Kills. Amy (as always) sounds as if the end of the world had been predicted for 15 minutes from now.

Jul. 28 2010 10:40 AM
Ellen from 11011

If a card is not unlimited, please do not call it unlimited.

I would pay a bit more to have a truly unlimited card - I take the train every day, and occasionally on the weekend.

Some days I use the card as much a 4 times, other days not so much. Sometimes I don;t use the card - regardless, the trains are running whether or not I am on them, and the idea of a cap just doesn't make sense.

I also support the idea of reduced rates for low income people, however that is defined. For minimum wage folks, $2.25 is a significant portion of the hourly wage.

Jul. 28 2010 10:40 AM
LCruz from brooklyn

this getting really ridiculous, the MTA should stop wasting $ money on contractors, and hire non union workers,this only move would save them tons of $, we are basically just paying for loaded union pensions, why is the MTA not addressing this issue.

Jul. 28 2010 10:40 AM
jttaylor from nyc

HT;
I'm glad you're doing so well.

The people who serve you in resturants, wait on you in shops, take your ticket at the movies, work as security guards or cleaners at the museums you like to visit, etc., etc... In other words, the people who are truly dependent on public transportation are probably going to feel a pinch here.

Jul. 28 2010 10:20 AM
HTwoWhoa from 10011

$104 a month? I would even pay $200 a month. It's still better than keeping and maintaining an auto in Manhattan.

Jul. 28 2010 09:36 AM
jul from Brooklyn

I never thought I would say this, but offer corporate sponserships for subway stations - not all, just the mainly tourist stops. 34th St? Macy's. Times Square? Disney. This does not mean giving them away (whoever negotiated Barclay's deal need not negotiate future deals!)

Lastly, AUDIT. Complete overhaul is needed at the MTA.

Jul. 28 2010 07:38 AM

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