Fare Hike 2011: It’s Official

Advocates with Transportation Alternatives' Rider Rebellion Campaign outside MTA HQ this morning. The ##http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rider-Rebellion/145370505487914##Rider Rebellion## aims to build a coalition that will pressure Albany to enact better transit policy. Photo: ##http://plixi.com/p/49180087##Noah Budnick##

The monthly unlimited Metrocard will break the $100 barrier on January 1, following today’s 12-2 MTA Board vote to balance the agency’s budget by enacting a package of fare increases. (Get full details on the fare hike package from Ben Kabak.)

NY1’s John Mancini reports that the MTA Board faced some predictably withering public testimony this morning. But the real culprits weren’t even in the room — they’re at home or in their district offices while the state legislature is in recess.

With the bottom falling out of the MTA’s dedicated revenue streams three years ago, fare hikes and service cuts have sometimes felt like an unavoidable outcome of the recession, but it didn’t have to be this way. Would fares be rising at the same time that service is shrinking if Sheldon Silver and the Assembly had passed congestion pricing in 2008? Would this be happening if Pedro Espada and the fractious State Senate had allowed bridge tolls to be included in the 2009 MTA funding package? What if Albany hadn’t swiped more than $100 million in dedicated transit taxes from the MTA last December (a maneuver that legislators can repeat whenever they want)?

Looks like Board members are trying to get these same questions out there. Take a look at some highlights from the meeting, courtesy of the Twitter feed from Transportation Alternatives’ Noah Budnick, who’s building some awareness for TA’s Rider Rebellion campaign:

MTA board member Norman Seabrook, “Congestion pricing could’ve been the answer to the people of this city.”

MTA board member/transit rider rep Andrew Albert opposes the fare hike, calls for congestion pricing, E.River bridge tolls.

MTA board mbr Blair, “the riders have paid & paid…we need to ask those who have abdicated responsibility to step up.” Who?

MTA board mbr Michael Pally “Washington & Albany come & help us avert the fare hikes & service cuts.”

MTA brd mbr Susan Kuppferman “#Albany, we’ve done everything we can. We need your help” or else more hikes & cuts will come

  • Larry Littlefield

    Seabrook, Albert and many of the other MTA board members have been there a long time, and have voted repeatedly to destroy the future of the transit system. I don’t particularly appreciate hearing from them now that the future has arrived.

    They did Pataki and the legislature’s bidding, and delivered something for nothing. The result will be less for more for a long, long time.

    And by the way, would anyone riding around on the subway describe the current level of service as “doomsday?” I wouldn’t.

    And neither are these fare increases. A 7.5% increase per year is in fact far lower than the increase in TWU labor costs (4.0% wage increase per year plus soaring health care and pension costs).

    But doomsday is sure to arrive.

  • Glenn

    The MTA is getting into a fare situation where they will start losing ridership to alternatives based on the fares. I’ve given up my unlimited card because I frequently travel for work, work from home and rarely use my card on the weekends when I walk, bike or share a cab later at night to most of my destinations since transit service is so low.

    I still don’t understand why the unlimited is what is rising so much. Mass transit scales very well and the cost of incremental trips is minimal. Why not structure the unlimited fare lower and the per trip higher to get people into the habit of paying into the system every month to cover the cost of running the system. The new fare structure will only encourage people to only use the system when they need it, further reducing the ridership below the critical mass necessary to support the system.

  • v


  • Ian Turner

    Glenn: It’s not about revenue maximizing. The MTA says unlimited users are wealthier than pay-per-ride users, so they’re going to make them pay more of the burden.

    Seems quite reasonable to me; if the unlimited gets expensive enough, however, it will make a peak/off-peak fare structure even more attractive.

  • Car Free Nation

    but why not increase the bridge tolls more? that’s where the money is…

  • Kwyjibo

    Rode an A train today tagged with graffiti on the outside. Happy days are here again.

  • Glenn

    Ian – I still don’t buy the logic. The wealthiest people probably live in Manhattan and are probably the most likely to not use the transit system at all or use it more on a transactional basis. For them the unlimited is more like a convenience of not having to think about. But any purchase over $100 does not pass unnoticed for any income group.

    In any case, the way to help the poorest people that can’t afford mass transit is to give them subsidized discounts or include mass transit in poverty programs, not make the base fare for everyone low and charge a convenience fee for the unlimited.

    In most European systems the monthly transit pass is such a good deal versus the cost per ride rate that almost anyone automatically buys the monthly pass and only tourists or very occasional users buy individual rides. It also has the benefit from a public policy standpoint of making it seem like mass transit is a good deal to all segments of society.

  • David

    The monthly pass for the Tube in London is GBP 99 for the inner 2 zones, so that’s relatively comparable.

    The Paris one is more confusing because the zones are smaller — a pass for the inner four zones (which I think is the city proper and not the suburban RER lines) is EUR 91 or so, so that’s a better discount.

  • Andrew

    In a system with a flat fare and with turnstiles, the point of an unlimited card is typically to promote off-peak ridership, which, once the agency is committed to providing rush hour service, is relatively inexpensive to accommodate. The price should not be attractive to people who only use the system for rush hour commutes – those are the expensive trips.

    This reasoning doesn’t apply on systems that directly charge more for rush hour trips than for off-peak trips. And on systems that use proof-of-payment, unlimited tickets are particularly beneficial, so they’re often discounted more than they would be otherwise. (NYCT currently has POP on one bus line only, soon to be two.)

  • Tralfaz

    It’s Official: Albany Doesn’t Give a Damn.

  • R. Thibault

    Ugh is right. This is very limited democracy at its’ finest (worst).

  • iSkyscraper

    Further to the per-ride vs unlimited comments, Glenn and Andrew are right. This is totally messed up. I don’t know of any other transit system that goes above the ~44-46 trip breakeven. Even the most expensive system, Toronto, stays with 44 trips. The whole point is to get daily commuters to WANT to have a pass, since then the off-peak trips are in effect already paid for. This then encourages them to not take cabs or cars. If they now have to shell out actual per-ride $, a couple might say “hey, that cab ride or parking garage is now $10 vs $9 there and back for both of us on the train, not $10 vs $0. Screw taking the subway.”

    It might be cute politics to punish the “wealthy” (i.e. people with jobs who commute) but it’s terrible urban policy.

  • What seems missing in all the discussion remains the MTA’s — and particularly chair/ ceo Jay Walder’s — outright refusal to reverse the cuts made through the summer if the resources were provided to the transit agency. Instead of operating as a public benefit corporation, it seeks to function as a private business. The refusal to take the money did more that take electeds off the hook. It screwed riders and put many of them into two-fare zones with commuter vans as the replacement for the cut bus routes. See http://coreybearak.com/columns/2010-06-07_Queens_Needs_Its_Buses.pdf

  • What seems missing in all the discussion remains the MTA’s — and particularly chair/ ceo Jay Walder’s — outright refusal to reverse the cuts made through the summer if the resources were provided to the transit agency.

    That’s because it’s not what he said. He said he didn’t want money to be simply taken from the capital program and applied to operations. If the restored money had come from some other source – such as the $167 million in “dedicated” funding that the legislature stole – he would have restored the service.

    Nice attempt, Corey, to deflect the blame for bankrupting the MTA from your own opposition to congestion pricing – or from your client, Amalgamated Transit President Miller’s betrayal of his riders. Streetsblog readers are a bit too smart to fall for that line.

  • Andrew


    Actually, I was disagreeing with Glenn. See my comments in response to your post elsewhere.

    The MTA doesn’t set urban policy. The MTA doesn’t care if people take cars or cabs. The MTA cares if it has to buy additional cars or install an expensive signal system on a busy line because the trains have gotten too crowded during rush hours. Rush hour riders are costly.

  • Polina

    I am renting in Long Island and commuting to the city every day for work and school. My commute will cost me $360($50 then it was). But, i already planning to move to Queens and it will give me extra 250 for other staff. This is insane, and LIRR will lose money – at least on me. Because i am sure, i am not the only one! Everybody knows MTA is inefficient and MTA workers are inefficient(not all of them but a lot).

  • Alex

    Well, you can went air here but this place do not want any real comments against MTA be visible.
    I just wonder why?
    Posted comments with facts and mathematics month ago – did not pass through and I wonder why…

  • Alex

    Lets try one more time.
    IRS reported 12 million people make money in NYC.
    Basically to work in NYC you need to get here. Unless you have limo or a chopper..
    Lets say that 2 million do which will leave us with 10 millions who does uses MTA on daily basis…
    How much money will it give to MTA? Well over 10 billions per year from subways and buses alone. How much from bridges and tunnels? More then enough to pay $300 for toilet seat replacement.
    And how much do we really paying now for metro card, considering fact that MTA getting free money from government (read from taxes therefor from our packets)?

  • Edward Branca

    As we all know, one of the causes of the fare increases and the service cutbacks is that the MTA. is a badly managed agency. Another reason why public transit is is crisis in New York state is because the “Empire State” is a badly managed state. We probably have the worst state legislature in all of the fifty states.

    There was a news story that I read on Yahoo this morning. The story said that more people are moving out of the New York than are moving out of any other state.

    Our state has seen better days. Only a miracle will make this state great again.

  • Alex

    Actually all what it takes is to get rid of Blom as a mayor and put there someone who does care about NY and not a politics of city…

    Yes he does not get salary from city for himself but I wonder why all printing jobs for the city done exclusively by company he own or subsidize?
    And please do not start with that BS about “… he is hand off from his money by the law…” and “… board of trustee managing his money while he is in the office…”

    Renaming Triboro cost city over 10 mil. Not bad for one day work to sign paperwork for this project…

    Does anyone knows how many other renaming and re-painting projects was given to his companies?


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