Doomsday Open Thread: What’s Your Plan?

Now that they’ve covered the all-important transit riders against bridge tolls angle, William Neuman and the Times are asking straphangers how they plan to deal with seemingly imminent fare hikes and service reductions. Commenter #1’s response:


So, assuming tomorrow’s MTA board vote brings about the doomsday scenario in June, what’s your strategy? More walking and biking? Fewer discretionary trips? Cutting back on newspaper subscriptions?

Leave it in the comments.

  • I currently have an unlimited monthly MetroCard. With these hikes, I will forgoe that and go for a Pay-Per-Ride. I will switch to my bike as my primary mode, car as #2, and the MTA as #3. I think that having a Pay-Per-Ride card will make cycling very enticing asside from the excercise and my love for riding.

    Our State government is so broken, they need to go! When the republicans had the Senate, they used that as an excuse for not getting things done. Now they have the State, and the Governor and they still can’t get anything done?! Out with the broken old!

  • There is one thing that will certainly happen when the doomsday predicament happens: at $5 or more a round trip, you’ll see scores of people jumping on bikes. Which is about the only positive thing that will happen with this plan. So it is good that the NYC DOT has been hard at work increasing the bike network.

    For me, the three-or-four-times-per-week riding and all-Winter season riding on subways will now become a thing of the past. As long as the weather is good, I am on the bike all the time. My girlfriend lives in Jackson Heights which is an almost 90 minute bus-to-subway-walk regularly. It is only 45-50 minutes by bike at 11 miles or so. Now I will just take that $5 and use it for lunch or dinner when I show up sweaty at her doorstep!

  • Visit New York City less often.

    Maybe if bicycles were actually allowed/encouraged on Metro North…

  • Red

    I probably won’t change much. But this certainly makes the $30 or so in stimulus dollars added to my paycheck every month feel very welcome.

  • Maybe round up groups of commuters to walk to work together–in the car lanes–on the East and Harlem River Bridges?

  • Watch out on the bike! This is going to be gold for taxi services and the crazy drivers they employ!

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I guess I’ll do exactly what my elected representatives seem to want me to do: I’ll drive my car more often.

    I’ll drive into Manhattan for work, for shopping and recreation. I’ll sit in traffic at the approaches to the East River Bridges and emit exhaust fumes. I’ll circle blocks endlessly looking for free parking spaces. I’ll double-park or block a fire hydrant when I can’t find one. I’ll listen to talk radio and curse the MTA. I’ll get frustrated because of all the driving and I’ll smash my fist into the steering wheel, blare my horn on clogged commercial avenues and take careening, high-speed short-cuts through residential neighborhoods. Maybe I’ll run over a pedestrian or cyclist. It’ll be an “accident.” Albany doesn’t allow the City to do anything with red light cameras, so what do I have to worry? I’m doing exactly what my state representatives are encouraging me to do.

  • Glenn

    Going to pay per ride from now on instead of unlimited. More walking and maybe some more biking.

    That means a lot more staying around my neighborhood and a lot less going downtown or even much south of 110th Street at night or on the weekends. Less going to Wholefoods for food shopping and more walking to the local greenmarket. Good for local businesses, bad for “cool” areas of the city like the Village.

    And unfortunately, I’ll probably drive more on weekends to visit friends in the outerboroughs if service is cut.

    What will we cut? Probably a mix of trips to the movie theater, spending more on eating out and bringing my lunch to work…

    I feel really bad for folks on minimum wage though. This really cuts into their budget.

  • Doug

    One result: fewer discretionary trips and the consolidation of multiple trips into one or two.

    Another result: more taxi trips. If taxi fares stay more or less the same, it now will make more sense for three or four people to take a cab in some situations than for them to travel by subway. If it’s going to cost $10 for people to take the subway from 34th street to Greenwich Village but not much more to take a cab, they’ll take a cab. It might even be worth the extra dollar or two to not take your chances waiting for a train, even if there’s traffic on the street.

    I wish I could agree with Clarence, but I don’t think it will usher in a new era of bicycling, even if it encourages a few more people to ride. Too many other things, such as more bike lanes, secure parking, high gas prices, etc. would have to happen at the same time for that. $2.50 subway fares aren’t going to reduce the number of cars on the road. If anything, the more the cost of single subway or bus ride outpaces the cost of a gallon of gas the more you’ll see people stay in their cars.

    I think this will have the unintended consequence of hurting the economies of neighborhoods which rely on people coming from outside of it, such as SoHo or Midtown, especially on weekends. But if it keeps people local and shopping in their own neighborhoods, then maybe that’s not a bad thing.

  • ben

    We already have our service cuts, expect more and now a fare increase.

    I have long ago switched to the bike for everything. Maricopa County Arizona.
    I ride an average of 500 miles a month. My base commute is 100 miles a week. I just finished the last piece to my bus demands. I had no where to lock up my bike when going on greyhound. Not even a rack.

    So I found a safe place and a little bit of a walk. It is 1.75 here with a 5.25 day pass. For the service I get this is crappola.

    Note they said they wanted to reduce boarding times so they charged an extra quarter to put into the machine.

  • Glenn

    Definitely agree that the economics of taxi vs. bus/subway will change.

    Just going from the unlimited to the pay-per-ride will change that dynamic. Every trip becomes a decision point. And cars are considered near free. If they raise the unlimited to over $100, I see a lot more people sitting in their cars waiting for their turn to cross a “free bridge”.

  • Danny G

    I’ll be imposing a one-drink maximum when I go out to bars.

    But all in all, $100/month for unlimited 24/7 subway+bus usage is still a bargain compared with the London Underground, the trains of Tokyo, or car insurance/gas/maintenance/parking.

  • Yup. I will bike more and like Glen I’ll shop in the neighborhood here in the Bronx more. Thing is– this is going to hit some of the poorest people in the city HARD. It’s so unfair– why can’t they pass the tolls?

  • As a work-at-home employee, I make an average of two round trips by transit per week, one for a work commitment or doctor’s appointment, and the other discretionary weekend travel, usually to the outer boroughs for a Saturday lunch. And I use a full-fare card. I’ll be paying $2 more a week or about a hundred bucks a year. This will hardly affect me at all.

    The service cuts, not the fare hikes, are what will get me. My weekend jaunts — which I quite enjoy, and which allow me to enjoy the rest of the city outside my neighborhood — will be less pleasant with packed trains and longer waits. Perhaps I will leave the nabe less often. The service cuts will also encourage more driving, which means more pollution and noise for Manhattan residents like me. And they will savage the city’s economy, affecting all of us in ways we haven’t yet imagined.

    Anti-urbanists who have been predicting New York City’s demise forever — because they consider it an unfit place to live, and its people somehow immoral — will be laughing at us as our city disintegrates. That may be the part that hurts most of all.

  • No change whatsoever. For most of us, $100 or so per month is still a bargain compared to the hassles and/or expenses of all the other options.

  • I bike everywhere so I’d like to think that this won’t touch me. But I believe that Mark is correct (the cuts will “savage the city’s economy, affecting all of us in ways we haven’t yet imagined”). And I’m sure Susan is right that this will hit the poorest people hard. Five bucks is a lot of dough for a round-trip fare.

  • Ian Turner

    For the poorest of the working poor, scraping by and spending just $15k annually, this fare increase represents a whopping 1.7% increase in annual expense. For somebody like me, closer to the city median income of $28610, it’s less than a 1% increase. Transportation is still less than 5% of annual expense for our median citizen, way less than the nationwide average.

    No change for now, get back to me when a metrocard costs $250/month.

  • I’ll pay the $22 more a month. I’m fortunate that it won’t be a major hardship for me, and I can’t telecommute frequently enough that switching over to a pay-per-ride card is a sensible option.

    Like Susan points out, it’s the poorest New Yorkers who will be the hardest hit, and it’s infuriating that our legislators are either foolhardily believe or are pretending that those are the people they’re sticking up for here.

  • Doug

    A five-dollar round trip represents the first hour of take-home pay for someone earning minimum wage.

    To save money, a person could get a monthly card, but for the poorest of the poor, or anyone living paycheck to paycheck, spending $103 might not be possible. Even if it’s more expensive in the long-run, it might be easier in the short term to buy rides on a pay-as-you-go basis. So once again the poor float the system while wealthier car riders cross bridges for free.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “No change whatsoever. For most of us, $100 or so per month is still a bargain compared to the hassles and/or expenses of all the other options.”

    Right, but I’m glad I’m biking anyway, given the collapse of the system is the next shoe to drop.

  • J:Lai

    This is about the worst thing that could happen to the city, economically and culturally as well.
    For people who commute to work each day, and have inelastic demand for transit, it will increase the cost of commuting (basically add a new tax at a time of economic recession), and increase the commute time (increase un-productive time which is neither producing economic output nor consuming liesure.)
    For discretionary travel, it will make people choose to travel to and around the city less, because of both time and money. Switching to automobile modes is bad because there is much lower capacity to move people through the city with cars than with transit, besides all the other negative externalities.

    This sucks.

  • srock

    I got rid of my metro card years ago, so the only thing left to do try to see that my state reps are defeated in the next election cycle. Legislative votes or non-votes like this will keep occurring unless officials know that there are consequences for their actions.

  • oscarfrye

    i cant stand how they penalize the monthly riders…for someone who rides only to/from work everyday (2 trips per weekday) its is hardly a discount anymore

    ass backwards thinking

  • You talk to people who don’t even own cars who were against congestion pricing or bridge tolls because “they hurt the poor”. Now what have we got? This is going to hurt a lot of month to month NYC residents. I remember not being able to spend $100 even if it saved money in the end.

    But for me, I ride everyday, and everywhere, I rarely take the train, and avoid cabs like the plague they are. Only thing that will change, the people off the trains will be on the streets now…

  • Ian Turner


    Do you have any data to support this hypothesis? I’d guess that most single-ride cardholders are people who ride the subway infrequently, which is to say tourists and those who commute via LIRR or MNRR. Indeed it was this thinking that lead to the steep monthly discounts in the first place.

  • Ian (whose posts I read with interest, by the way): “I’d guess that most single-ride cardholders are people who ride the subway infrequently, which is to say tourists and those who commute via LIRR or MNRR.”

    It’s a mistake to regard all single-ride card users as outsiders or out-of-towners. I work in a home office, use the transit system — but not every day — and have lived in this city for 30 years. There are also people who live near enough to their jobs to walk but use transit at other times. Then there are the elderly, who no longer work or commute, but making the occasional shopping trip. Ditto the disabled. I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

  • Roberto C. Tobar

    As a Long Islander who must commute to the city every day and relies on a Monthly LIRR ticket/Metrocard combo to get around, this absolutely displeases me. As a monthly Metrocard user, I am outraged at the idea of not being allowed to use that card on a Long Island Bus ever again – so my alternative? Stay home…..or move out of NY for good. (And Long Island Bus is going to be way too expensive as it were! Why do Long Islanders always suffer the most?!)

  • Right, but I’m glad I’m biking anyway, given the collapse of the system is the next shoe to drop.

    OK, but let’s be honest. Biking is not an attractive commuting option for a lot of people. A good bike is quite expensive, and prone to theft besides. Or you could go through junkers but they require constant repairs and attention. Then there’s maybe half the population who aren’t physically fit enough to handle it. I think I could handle it, but I would absolutely loathe arriving at work drenched in sweat every morning. In short, I could see these fare hikes attracting a handful of biking fanatics away from transit, but hardly anyone else.

  • Ian Turner


    Flattery will get you everywhere. 😉

    I don’t mean to tar any class of people with one brush, but the relative proportions do matter (and I did use the word “most”, which just implies 50%). My intention is not to add to the speculative bubble but rather to point out that nobody really knows who uses what sort of payment method without some hard data. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about public policy, it’s that you really can’t generalize from personal experience — there are too many counterintuitive truths that can only be reached from testable hypotheses.



  • Larry Littlefield

    (And Long Island Bus is going to be way too expensive as it were! Why do Long Islanders always suffer the most?!)

    Because Nassau and Suffolk counties stopped contributing a dime to Long Island bus years ago, that’s why. Long Islanders see it as a cattle car for the slaves (city residents) to come out and work in their low-wage jobs.

  • Ashcan Sam

    Well, a gym membership is $100 a month, so could have showers at a gym near your work for the same cost as 20 subway rounds trips at $5 each.

  • Roberto C. Tobar

    All I can say is, Suozzi and everyone who runs Nassau County are @$$es. At least Suffolk county won’t suffer too badly in terms of buses (since they’re not even part OF the MTA), though train fares will still be bad, of course. But it’ll be almost impossible to live in Nassau County….unless you WORK for the MTA.


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