Fare hike returns seem meager

By · Published in 2007

As the MTA tries to figure out whether or not there are better ways to raise revenue than implementing a fare hike, some of the details of the fare hike have been seemingly ignored. What, for instance, are we subway riders going to get for our increased fare?

Well, the MTA has released preliminary details of the specific service improvements, and the returns are, in my opinion, quite lacking. Here’s what the MTA is promising us for all of our fare hike problems:

  • Additional rush hour, weekday off-peak and weekend service on the L Line.
  • Additional evening service on the Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 6, and additional weekend service on the No. 7.
  • Increased Staten Island express bus service on weekends, weekdays, middays and nights, in addition to the new S89 service to Bayonne kicking off this fall.
  • Bus Rapid Transit initiative scheduled to begin with implementation along two routes.
  • Next year, a total of five subway station rehabilitations are scheduled to be completed, all made newly ADA accessible.

Wow. Not much, eh? The L service is a step in the right direction. For months and months, we’ve heard about how the MTA had not anticipated the population explosion in Williamsburg and points east. Finally, they’re addressing problems of overcrowding and unreliable service along a vital artery line into Brooklyn.

The increased evening and weekend service along the IRT lines sounds nice. But I don’t know too many people complaining that the 4, 5 and 6 suffer from lack of off-peak service. The 7 train service will benefit John Rocker’s friends.

The other benefits are niche improvements. I wrote recently about the Bus Rapid Transit lanes. As I said two weeks ago, those will work only if the MTA and NYPD figure out a way to keep cars out of the designated bus lanes. I like the idea as a pilot program; I’m less than thrilled that this is one of the top five pressing needs for New York City Transit. Ideally, if this pilot is a success, the city could add more BRT lines with the arrival of the congestion fee.

The five subway stations scheduled for rehabilitation intrigue me. I get a lot of search hits as people look for information about the plan to connect the Uptown IRT platform at Bleecker St. with the rest of the Broadway-Lafayette stop. When I wrote about it in May, it was hard to tell if the MTA would follow through with this now or in the indeterminate future. There’s still no indication of this plan’s fate.

In addition to those changes listed on the MTA’s site, amNY’s Tracker Blog highlights a few more additions for us. These changes included longer weekday operating hours for the B and W as well as that long-promised G train extension to Church Ave. in Brooklyn.

For fans of the MTA’s rolling stock, the Authority will add new R160 cars along the J, Z, L, M, N and Q Lines. That’s great for the L, N and Q, but by adding new cars to the J, Z and M lines, the MTA is targeting barely-used train lines. Those cars are the oldest, but they are also the least frequented of any subway line in the city.

Overall, then, we’re getting a mixed bag of service upgrades. We’re not seeing a commitment to the Broadway-Lafayette plan or the plans to paint many of the subway stations. I like new subway cars as much as the next guy, and I like increased off-hours service. But why is the MTA targeting lines that aren’t underserved? And where’s our F/V express service? Not yet here, it seems.

Categories : Fare Hikes

7 Responses to “Fare hike returns seem meager”

  1. TLC says:

    I’m just curious… do you know how many of the MTA’s promises from the last fare hike were actually fulfilled?

  2. Harlan says:

    Just a note about the new 160s for the L line. One of the reasons they haven’t been able to use the fancy new computerized train control system is that not all of the trains on the line have the systems yet. Presumably the new 160s will, and once all of the trains have computerized control, they’ll be able to increase the number of trains per hour at peak times and reduce crowding and delays as a result!

  3. Marc Shepherd says:

    Some of the service improvements they’re taking credit for were really baked into the plan already — for instance, ADA accessibility at the South Ferry station. Something that was already bought and paid-for shouldn’t be touted as a service improvement connected to the fare increase.

  4. Gary says:

    To follow on Marc Shepard’s point, many of Bloomberg’s initiatives in PlaNYC were previously planned as well.

    I personally don’t think a fare hike is remotely justifiable. If you want to talk about a regressive tax hike, it doesn’t get any more regressive than this.

    Why aren’t more people outraged about this? Yes, the system needs funds . . . a LOT more funds, for improvements and expansion. But funding them on the backs of the little guy, when income inequality is at it’s worst level in 80 years, is an outrage.

    It’s time we looked at all of the underlying financing schemes for mass transit in this city, and whether historical debt (the true source of the fiscal crisis coming down the pike) should be assumed by the city and/or state.

    A fare increase is not the answer, and these pathetic improvements offered as a trade-off are a slap in the face to every hard-working New yorker who rides the rails.

    Come to think of it, this will make a good blog post. Rant off.

  5. Julia says:

    This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I’m OK with the idea of letting fares rise with inflation. To me, the fact that there are no Big Ideas being funded by the fare increase means that it really is just to pay for the increased cost of doing business.** But I want congestion pricing, too, and responsible budgeting by the MTA. Fares should go up when they need to, but in balancing fares, tolls, etc., public transit HAS to remain more attractive and accessible than driving.

    (Clyde Haberman points out in the Times today that the price of a slice of pizza — which has always tracked the price of a subway fare remarkably closely– has climbed over $2 recently, too.)

    ** A note to Marc Shepherd: when it comes to big capital projects, never assume that “bought” also means “paid for”!

  6. Marc Shepherd says:

    Julia, I do know that “bought” doesn’t necessarily mean “paid for.” But with the South Ferry station improvements, it really does mean that. This project is totally funded by Federal post-9/11 money that is already committed. Now, the Second Avenue Subway is a different story. They don’t even have full funding for Phase I (though they are quite close), and they certainly don’t have it for any of the later phases.

    Gary, I fully agree that fare increases are regressive. Unfortunately, the only other option is a government subsidy, and these days you just can’t get a majority of the legislature to approve the tax increases to pay for it. The MTA can’t control who’s in the legislature, so they have to play the hand they are dealt. Of course, the legislature itself helped to create this problem, by authorizing an unrealistic level of borrowing in past years, which now needs to be paid back.

    Having said that, the current base fare of $2 doesn’t look that bad when you look at other subway systems. And in any case, practically all regular riders take advantage of discounts, and don’t pay $2 anyway.


  1. […] What would we get from those potential MTA increases? [SecondAveSagas] […]

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