Today’s Headlines

  • Bloomberg Unsure About Transit Hike (News)
  • MTA Advised to Raise Money by Cutting Fares (Post)
  • Brodsky Critiques Pricing Data (AMNY)
  • MTA Not Selling Public on Pricing Improvements (Metro)
  • Electeds Would Offer Breaks to City Drivers (Sun)
  • Bronxite: If You Don’t Want to Pay, Don’t Drive (Riverdale Press)
  • Alternate Side ‘Reform’ Seen as Emissions Reducer (Riverdale Press)
  • Time to Do Something About Double-Parking (Brooklyn Paper)
  • Parking Trumps Ambulance Access in Park Slope (Brooklyn Paper)
  • Residents Rally for Ninth Ave. Traffic Calming (Villager)
  • Disagreement Over Plans for Chinatown’s Park Row (Villager)
  • Cyclist Finds Civility Among the Jerks (Brooklyn Paper)
  • Hey! That’s me! I’m the guy who wrote the letter into the Riverdale Press. I’m glad they published it.

  • RIverdalian

    FYI they publish all letters 🙂 but congratulations anyway.

  • haha…busted my bubble.

  • Larry Littlefield

    At least one MTA board member seems to have had it with bitching about the fare, given that real fares have fallen right along with taxpayer funds for the MTA.

    So getting rid of all the Pataki-era discounts, including the unlimited ride cards and the “extra-ride,” would actually be a fare increase. The increase would be bigger if they went back to two-fare zones. The MTA is getting no credit for the discounts, so why not? They could say they were cutting the fare.

    Actually, I think the better solution is to eliminate the unlimited ride card and the 6 ride for five, but keep the fare at $2.00 at peak hours, cutting it to $1.50 off peak. Still a “fare cut,” but one that reduces the disincentive to ride during the off-peak hours.

  • JF

    Great letter, Mike!

    The Sun article is weird. Did nobody speak out in favor of congestion pricing last night, or did the Sun editors just not think that was worth mentioning?

    I have no problem with Krueger’s concern, but the other representatives’ reservations are mostly elitist or clueless. What “terrible bus service” is Mendez talking about? Not in her district that includes “Lower East Side, East Village, Gramercy Park, Rosehill, Kips Bay; southern part of Murry Hill,” where there are so many subways (and so many jobs within walking distance) that you don’t really need the bus. The buses could be more frequent or have more priority, but she’s got one of the most transit-rich districts in the country. Yes, I would blame her constituents for wanting to drive.

    Kellner has it backwards about the tunnels. The toll burden already falls disproportionately on people from NJ; this would correct it. Similarly with Garodnick and his “inherent unfairness.” It’s inherently unfair that Manhattan residents can run over my neighbors for free; that charge would compensate us a little and act as a deterrent.

    Sheesh, don’t these people have any sympathy for their constituents who don’t drive? What is wrong with them?

  • Sam

    Thank you Larry! I never understand why people don’t advocate getting rid of those riding discounts before their is a far increase. I know for a fact that with unlimiteds many people pay significantly less than 2.00 a ride and I myself never pay more than 1.79 a ride because of the buy 5 get one free. Eliminating those would be a fare increase that might not actually seem like one.

  • Hilary

    The discounts don’t just appeal to frequent riders. They are used by groups. This is something to be encouraged, because they are the hardest to wean from automobiles. There may even be a better way of capturing this market.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Sorry, Larry and Sam, but eliminating the unlimited-ride cards would absolutely feel like a fare increase to me. More importantly, as Hilary and the MTA spokesman, Jeremy Soffin, pointed out, the unlimited rides encourage ridership.

    We’ve been talking about how the upfront investment in car ownership encourages people to drive, because they feel like they’ve already paid for it, and relative to that the cost of a ride here or there isn’t much. Robin Chase talked about how Zipcar and car-sharing can eliminate that.

    Meanwhile we want people to take transit, and you’re suggesting eliminating one of the main ways of encouraging them to do this?

  • Sam

    Sorry Angus but basically what you’re saying is that if unlimited rides didn’t exist more people would start driving to work. I don’t think so. $2 to get around town is a steal no matter how you look at it and in and of itself encourages ridership. Do you think you are entitled to pay less than 2 dollars a ride because you use the train more? Is it really that bad paying for a wonderful city service? Besides, either way you slice it the price of taking the train is going up. I would prefer to see the fare actually become two dollars before we see a fare increase.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Barry was just making a point, apparently missed by a lot of people. The $2.00 fare is paid by relatively few people so it is really not the issue, the average fare is $1.299 after all the discounts are counted. The debate has been about who pays the $2.00 fare anyway. Class advocacy has it that those are poor people who can’t afford the upfront cost of the the discounts. Maybe. Others claim it is moslty tourists who aren’t savvy enough about how to ride the system that pay most of it. Very few people will be driven off the system by a quarter increase in the $2 fare in any event. Still 260 work days a year x 0.25 = $65/yr./52= $1.25/wk.

  • Steve

    JF, I was at the hearing last night, and the Sun article was just the typical biased job you see in that paper. There was significant support for CP “in principle” among most of the electeds quoted in the article, they are all just angling for winning a break for CP zone residents so they can say to their constituents (the majority of whom, it was acknowledged, support CP) that they were responsible for winning congestion pricing, but they wre also responsible for winning them a break from congestion pricing. The most popular break for zone residents mentioned–it was supported by some of the nonprofit speakers as well as almost all of the electeds–was waiving the fee for those driving out of the zone. The only elected official who openly opposed congestion pricing on principle was Rep. Weiner, although Jonathan Bing was not too far from Weiner.

  • Dave H.
  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Sorry Angus but basically what you’re saying is that if unlimited rides didn’t exist more people would start driving to work. I don’t think so. $2 to get around town is a steal no matter how you look at it and in and of itself encourages ridership.

    Sam, I have to disagree with you on this. I think you underestimate the psychological effect of not having to worrry about that $2 and whether you can afford to take this particular trip. There are times in the past when I haven’t had the cash to afford a monthly card, and it definitely made me think about how I could avoid taking the subway.

    I don’t think that means that people will buy cars and give up the subway on this factor alone, but it is a factor. More than convincing people to switch from the subway to a car, it could be a factor in convincing new migrants to the city to choose a car over the subway, and dissuading people from switching from car to subway.

  • Unlimited ride cards also encourage people in two-fare zones to use public transportation — bus to subway and vice versa — rather than taking dollar vans, driving to the subway, or just driving the whole trip. Residents of two-fare zones (and transit-poor neighborhoods in general) are already more likely to drive… why take away one of their strongest incentives to use public transit?

  • Jonathan

    Anne, let me share the good news with you: for the last 10 years or so subway and bus riders have gotten free transfers using pay-per-ride MetroCards, not just the unlimited-ride ones. I scored one today, as a matter of fact.

  • Hilary

    It is crucial to entice people to make the investment in a monthly (or longer) pass. It becomes a sunk cost that they will try to get the most out of by taking more trips — even lending it to someone else. The extra rides will probably be weekend and peak and so are not really “robbing” the system. More riders mean safer trains (especially at the ends) and safer stations. More rides taken means more mobility for the city, which is what stimulates the economy. A pass generates more paying trips. If there is a pass-holder in a family, that family is more likely to all take transit for an outing than if there isn’t.
    The only drawback to bulk discounts is that they are regressive. The solution to that is to figure out the best way to get them into the hands of the poor (or the deserving poor, if that’s your philosophy).

  • Jonathan, thanks, though I am aware that the “two-fare zone” is technically a thing of the past; however I think there is a certain amount of “two-fare zone” thinking that persists, and makes residents of those areas more likely to own cars. My point is that the unlimited passes motivate people to use public transit more because it becomes a better value, and that is particularly true for people who use different “modes” because they don’t live close to the subway. Of course, an even bigger motivator would be to actually make the buses reliable and faster than WALKING.

  • Hilary

    We should also try to reduce the huge differential between the cost of NYC transit and MTA suburban trains, and even Amtrak. A ride on the LIE from Forest Hills, on MetroNorth from Morris Heights, or on Amtrak from Riverdale should be seen as a substitute. As of now, these stations and lines are totally underutilized by NYC residents. Bringing these lines “into the system” would add real capacity and flexibility to what we have now.
    I keep returning to the Tokyo system, which combines city and national trains. Obviously the Shinkansen doesn’t make local stops, but the national system includes local lines that are integrated with municipal service at equivalent fares. It offers a benefit for the regional and national lines as well. The customer in Chicago could buy a ticket to Greenpoint in Brookyln. A Long Island rider could buy a ticket to Riverdale in the Bronx. A one-ticket ride, with a website that gives you the transferring information.

  • Dave H.

    You mean extending CityTicket to weekdays? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CityTicket

    I wouldn’t overestimate the capacity of Metro-North on weekdays. There may be some spare capacity but those trains are pretty packed, particularly on the New Haven line.

  • Dave H.

    Hilary: also, check out the Regional Rail Working Group http://www.rrwg.org/ They agree with much of your post.

  • Hilary

    If the trains can’t accommodate the (true) demand, they should alter some of the cars to hold more people — benches or “fanny rests” or even standing room only cattle cars. Offer those seats at a lower price. We can never let “congestion” be the excuse to discourage willing transit riders.
    Dave – thanks for reminding me about the Regional Rail Working Group. Too bad they’re not represented on the CP commission.

  • Dave H.

    Hilary – the problem with Metro North now is that peak trains from the suburbs don’t make multiple stops in NYC, since most fill up in the suburbs then go straight to 125th Street (if that) and GCT. These trains are mostly all full at peak but there is generally always standing room, barring a few of the busiest trains, especially in the fall. But, in two years, once the recently-ordered new cars come into service, there will be much more room. Even so, having suburban express trains make multiple stops within the city will only add much unnecessary time to everyone’s trip and, honestly, just won’t happen.

    There are some local trains that do make multiple stops within the city. These would be a good candidate for expanding CityTicket to weekdays. However, don’t expect to see many more of these trains. The tunnel to GCT is packed to capacity at peak, so more trains cannot be added. MN could begin running service along the Amtrak Hell’s Gate line from New Rochelle to Penn Station – which is apparently under consideration – with stops at Co-op City etc. But this requires more room at Penn Station, which will only be available when that new Hudson tunnel and station get built. It also requires some engineering changes to the trains due the different ways they receive electricity.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Hilary, you seem to be suggesting a few different changes that are compatible but separate: (1) commuter trains being cheaper/more in line with subway and bus fares, (2) Amtrak fares being cheaper, (3) fare/ticketing integration.

    I agree with Dave’s point about Grand Central and Penn Station being near capacity during peak rush hours. The LIRR East Side Access project, and the subsequent Metro-North Penn Station Access project, will help this tremendously. But there is capacity in the off-peak, and there’s no reason that the CityTicket program can’t be extended to all off-peak hours.

    As far as Amtrak goes, there is definitely more that could be done, especially for trips that aren’t well-duplicated by any other carrier. For example, one-way tickets from New Rochelle to Newark are over $30; Stamford to Metropark is $50. I once wanted to go from Rhinecliff to Morris Heights on a Sunday, and there was no way to do it without a half-hour wait in Yonkers.

    I agree with you about ticketing; it’s silly that someone going from Albany to Babylon (as many college students do) has to wait until they get to Penn Station to buy their LIRR ticket. It’s also silly that you can’t buy a single ticket from, say, Woodside to Montclair Heights. It will also make sense for the MTA to integrate Metro-North and LIRR ticketing by the time LIRR trains start heading into Grand Central. In general it doesn’t make sense not to have a single fare system for all regional transportation, like they have in Paris. If the MTA can sell a ticket from Ridgewood to Harriman, they should be able to sell a ticket from Ridgewood to Harrison or Hempstead.

  • Hilary

    I wonder if the one-ticket future was considered when the city chose the metrocard. In Japan the tickets are a standard size and fit into a standard machine or can be hand-punched. I can’t see how this will work with metrocards.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I agree. Fortunately, we’ll probably get another chance soon, since they’re saying that metrocards are going to be phased out soon in favor of contactless payment systems.

    The best thing would be for the new smart cards to be developed so that they will work with the conductor-collection methods used on the commuter trains. There’s the potential for speeding up fare collection there, if the conductors can take everyone’s ticket just by pointing a wand down a row.

  • Hilary

    cool. Did you read about the Hong Kong cards that can be used at convenience stores too?