Spitzer Calls on MTA to Retain $2 Base Fare

Governor Eliot Spitzer has "directed" the MTA to keep the base fare for subway and bus rides at $2. City Room reports, however, that Spitzer held out the possibility for increases in unlimited ride card rates at a press conference held this morning.

Eliot_Spitzer.jpgMr. Spitzer said it was possible to keep the base fare at $2 through
2009 — and avoid an increase to $2.25, as the authority proposed for
early next year — because the authority had suddenly identified an
additional $220 million in unforeseen revenue. The $220 million
includes, Mr. Spitzer said, $60 million from increased ridership, $60
million from higher-than-anticipated real estate tax revenues, $60
million in savings and $40 million in lower-than-expected debt service
costs.

“We have come to the conclusion that the entirety of that $220 million
should be used to mitigate any need for a fare increase,” Mr. Spitzer
said in a morning news conference at his Midtown office. But he quickly
made it clear that he was referring only to the base fare.

In reality, only a small fraction of riders pay the full $2 fare.
Most commuters buy the 7-day or 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCards, and
many tourists use the one-day FunPass. The chief executive of the
authority, Elliot G. Sander, said that its financial staff needed to do
a new set of calculations to determine how the cost of unlimited-rides
cards — along with commuter rail fares and bridge and tunnel tolls —
would change under the plan.

But Mr. Spitzer said he expected that any increases on those fares
and tolls would be “significantly reduced” from what the authority had
originally envisioned.

So, as City Room commenters have pointed out, while one-shot fares — largely paid by out-of-towners — should remain the same for the time being, regular transit customers could still see an increase, albeit a "significantly reduced" one.

And again, it appears that neither Spitzer nor MTA chief Lee Sander took the opportunity to cite congestion pricing as a boon to the city’s transit system.

  • Larry Littlefield

    In the confernce on Saturday, Sander said service cuts are unacceptable. In reality, it appears that fare increases are unacceptable.

    Perhaps the MTA should consider draining down all its cash reserves and then slashing service. That appears to be the only poltically acceptable option.

  • AG

    Actually, I think more tax payer subsidies would be acceptable to many.

    What the NY should do is put tolls on the East River bridges and use the money to subsidize subway fares.

  • Mark Fleischmann

    There are lots of people who pay the $2 fare and are not tourists. We’re the ones who use the system but not every day. In my case, it’s because I’m a work-at-home employee and needn’t commute. I use transit anywhere from one to three times a week. I buy the $10 and $20 fare cards with “free” trips and take advantage of free transfers when they’re available.

  • Jonathan

    Mark, good news! You are not paying the $2 fare, rather you are paying $1.67 (or less, if you choose to count the transfers) per ride.

  • Jason A

    It would be a shame if, in the push to stop the hike, the MTA’s own “congestion pricing” scheme falls by the wayside.

    The L, the 4,5,6 and the E are laughably crowded. In the absence of an aggressive (and costly) plan to expand service, I don’t see how the MTA solves this problem:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/nyregion/26mta.html?ex=1340510400&en=50b9d2478b4a2211&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

    I think the MTA deserves credit for offering a novel solution to the growing number of trains that are operating past capacity. It’s unfortunate this plan has gotten ignored admidst all the noise surrounding the hike…

  • Mark Fleischmann

    Thanks, Jonathan! Need to brush up on my arithmetic…

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Mark, good news! You are not paying the $2 fare, rather you are paying $1.67 (or less, if you choose to count the transfers) per ride.)

    Right, but the MTA has received zero credit for this, or for the unlimited ride cards. Where has anyone said the fare has plunged relative to inflation, while labor costs (driven by retirees not workers) has risen faster than inflation?

    The right thing to do is to eliminate the unlimited ride cards and the 5 for 6 discount, implement the lower $1.50 fare off peak, and say that fares have been cut to the level of 1995 for all but the peak hours.

    The 5/6 Metrocard discounts may have made sense when the MTA was trying to get people to use Metrocards. It makes less sense now. Similarly, free travel above a certain point may have made sense when it was assumed that more ridership meant more tax support. That has been debunked.

    At this point, the MTA cannot take more peak riders, and people would rather avoid paying than expand the system. The one discount that remains sensible is for off-peak usage.

  • Brad Aaron

    Fare increases don’t fry me nearly as much as the fact that my wife, a public school teacher, could pay more for her 30-day Metrocard while her colleagues who drive to work will retain their free parking privileges. This is insane.

    Setting aside questions of how it manages its finances (if that’s possible), I personally think the MTA is taking a bit of a bum rap on the hikes. The money has to come from somewhere, and it was only when the pols started to look bad did they make any offers of state aid. And of course there are still no guarantees.

  • Steve

    While Jonathan is correct that Mark does not actually pay the $2 base fare, Mark is correct that he would be among the beneficiaries of spitzer’s proposal to retain the $2 base fare, if I understand the post. I would be a beneficiary also, because I usually commute by bike but in inclement weather and certain other occasions I use transit and pay the $2 base fare (which, admittedly, I buy at a discount).

  • Slopion

    “And again, it appears that neither Spitzer nor MTA chief Lee Sander took the opportunity to cite congestion pricing as a boon to the city’s transit system.”

    Another side effect to Spitzer’s bungled immigrant-license plan. Man’s not in a position to stick his neck out on anything. He’s reduced to the bold, politically daring step of opposing fare increases.

  • The MTA has announced that they will lower the proposed fare increases. It still sounds like Unlimited ride cards will see an increase but the base fare will remain at $2.00.

  • Jonathan

    Larry, I really like your plan, especially the “roll back to 1995” part. Could we see a rise in the breakfast and dinner business as former rush-hour commuters now leave the house earlier to save money and have their morning doughnut at the office?

    Brad, that would fry me too, but you could also see how her biased motoring colleagues might complain something like this: “What really cheeses me is that I have to commute in my motorcar to PS Eleventy-One from my suburban home and suffer traffic jams and the skyrocketing cost of gas, paid for with after-tax dollars, while Mrs. Aaron gets cost certainty for her commute (as well as her other errands) by buying an unlimited-ride card every month WITH PRETAX DOLLARS using transitcheck.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Larry, I really like your plan, especially the “roll back to 1995” part.)

    If only the MTA hadn’t proposed the off peak fare, because what ever it proposes the grandstanders are against it.

    Whereas in Los Angeles advocates sued to keep the monthly low, claiming that the carless working poor used it while the single ride was used by affluent teens going to the mall, in New York the opposite argument was made.

    And people argue that an off peak discount is inequitable since the rich will change their work hours but the poor are not allowed to. In reality car owners would pay the higher far during the only time they ride — to and from work in Manhattan — while the carless would benefit from cheaper non-work trips.

  • A Guy

    Can an expert type explain why this is not a fare hike? Won’t the MTA still get more money from riders? Isn’t that what a fare hike is? Why does Spitzer get showered with praise for this? It seems like just another form of fare hike.

  • grimace

    This is stupid. Why would Spitzer put off a fare hike one year into his term, so that he can deal with one when he’s running for reelection? No one’s going to remember that he didn’t raise the fare now, they’ll just see that he raised the fare in 2009. And taking the idea of the peak/off-peak fare differential and the regular, “programmatic” fare increases off the table is also unfortunate. Oh well, Albany strikes again.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I think the rub A Guy is that the MTA never got any credit for the actual average fare of $1.299 (I guess the $1.67 is a projection for after the increase that Larry and Jonathon agreed on, doesn’t sound wild but I don’t believe the MTA ever projected an after increase average). If this has no other effect is it to force the Daily News and others to acknowledge that the average fare is actually much lower than the $2 charge.

    Also, the media has flipped the class issue rap. Before Spitzer’s announcement the $2 was for very poor people who couldn’t afford the monthly rates or the bulk rates (the wino on my office stoop has a 30 day Metro Card) and the increase was going to push them over the edge. Now class mobility has apparently ensued and the $2 is something only the tourists pay any way so the “regular guy” Daily News reader is getting screwed again. Which is it?

  • Larry Littlefield

    (think the rub A Guy is that the MTA never got any credit for the actual average fare of $1.299 (I guess the $1.67 is a projection for after the increase)

    Nope, that’s the pay per ride price with the 6 rides for 5 discount.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I stand corrected Larry, I generally look at the average fare per ride. If it goes up 10% that would make it $1.43. Either way, the media has ignored it until now. Apparently now it will become much more important now that the $2 fare has been rescued.

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