How Eliot Spitzer saved the cars and tourists while nailing the rest of us


This afternoon, at 12 noon, the MTA will officially unveil its new fare plan during an online seminar. But, thanks to William Neuman and The New York Times, we already know what the new fare structure proposal will be, and as we guessed, everyday riders will bear the brunt of the increase. Thank you, Governor Spitzer.

Before getting to the proposal, let’s review: The MTA came under fire for its new fare hike plan seemingly from Day 1 in September. Comptrollers criticized the plans; MTA Board Members criticized the plan; the Straphangers criticized the plan. Then, in an effort to bolster his flagging image, New York’s Gov. Eliot Spitzer strongly urged the MTA to keep the base fare at $2 and scale the back the hikes. The MTA obliged, and now we’re all worse off. Well, all of us except the whopping 14 percent of subway riders who pay just $2 a ride.

So now, enter the new new fare hike proposal. Take it away, William Neuman:

Subway and bus riders who use monthly unlimited-ride MetroCards would be hit the hardest under a revised proposal to increase transit fares, which is to be announced today by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The cost of the monthly pass would rise to $81 from $76, a 6.6 percent increase, according to a memo sent to the authority’s board members yesterday. Bonus pay-per-ride MetroCards would also face increases under the new proposal. Also, an earlier proposal to offer discounts during off-peak hours is no longer being recommended, according to the memo…

Under the new proposal, the weekly unlimited-ride MetroCard would increase to $25, from $24, a 4.2 percent increase. Also, a 14-day MetroCard would be created, with a cost of $47. As part of the changes, the bonus on pay-per-ride MetroCards would fall to 15 percent, from 20 percent. But the amount of money needed to qualify for the bonus will also drop, to $7, from $10, the memo said.

You know what this means, right? Get ready to flex your math brains. For those pay-per-ride folks, buy a $20 MetroCard, get $3 more dollars. Those $23 cards really won’t come in handy at the end of its life. And forget about adding $7 more dollars; you’ll just end up with $8.05 instead, an utterly useless amount when it comes to the subway.

Meanwhile, it’s that Unlimited Ride increase that worries me. Sure, as the Monthly MetroCard Challenge shows, we’re all getting some pretty good deals with those cards, and I do like the addition of a 14-day Unlimited card. But while Spitzer made a good show of supposedly stopping the fare hike, the large faction of us using Unlimited Ride cards will now be shouldering more of the burden than we would have if the fare had risen to $2.25.

In the original plan, the Unlimited Ride cards were up for two different increases. The Peak/Off-Peak plan that was pretty much dead on arrival had the Unlimited cards heading to $81 for a month while the more traditional increase had those cards at $79. Now, the base fare — the fare used by one-off riders who don’t really enjoy all the benefits of the subway — will stay at $2, and Unlimited Ride MetroCards will go up by a whopping 6.6 percent, an increase even greater than that of the one planned for the bridge and tunnel crossings run by the MTA.

Once again, cars and tourists get the benefit of a reduced fare plan while residents relying on mass transit on a daily basis draw the short straw. Thanks for looking out for us, Gov. Spitzer. Appreciate it.

Personally, I’ve long expressed my support for a fare hike. Until Richard Brodsky makes good on his promise, reiterated once again in Neuman’s article, of more federal funds for the MTA, the agency has to shore up its financial future. But I can’t really get behind a plan that really nails the MTA’s most loyal customers while giving cars a sweet deal. We should be doing what we can to encourage mass transit use right now, and I’d rather see no fare hike than this shortsighted plan put forth by a pandering governor.

Categories : Fare Hikes

13 Responses to “How Eliot Spitzer saved the cars and tourists while nailing the rest of us”

  1. Ferd Berffle says:

    Great entry. No errors. Would read again. Nds more pictures of author, though.

  2. Mischa G says:

    Wow. I was talking to a coworker this morning about the fare hikes. Her response (and this is someone who has relied on the MTA her whole life) was “I guess I should learn how to drive.” This is exactly the response the MTA should not be prompting. It’s as though they completely ignored all reasonable input and instead opted for the plan that is worst for regular riders.

  3. Kid Twist says:

    $2, twice a day, five days a week, four weeks a month = $80.
    So at $81, the monthly Metrocard offers no savings at all to commuters. In fact, it will cost you an extra dollar over just using tokens, er, single-ride tickets.
    You have to be sure that you will use the subway or bus on the weekend–or at least for more than just traveling to and from work–to see any advantage from the monthly pass.
    I wonder if that means some people will think twice about buying monthly cards. If so, expect longer lines at the card machines (and less money up front for NYCT, which benefits from having us pay our fares in advance).

  4. paulb says:

    The comment from Mischa G’s co-worker is idiotic. Let her buy a car and commute with it and find out how much it costs the rest of America to drive to work.

  5. adamess says:

    It sounds like it’s a $1 bonus for every $7, so you’d spend $21 on a $24 Metrocard… no money left over.

    So on the pay-per-ride system, one ride now costs $1.75 instead of 1.66, an increase of 5.5%…

  6. Mischa G says:

    I disagree Paul. I think that when you change fares in a way that hurts those of us who are actually using public transportation you definitely do push some people into commuting patterns that are more harmful to the environment and run counter to plans to ease congestion in the city. They really should be doing everything they can to encourage regular use of public transportation.

  7. paulb says:

    Even with the increase, taking the subway to work is cheap, cheap, cheap, compared to what it costs out of pocket to use a car anywhere else, and in particular what it drains from the bank account to commute via car in NYC.

    Obviously the notion of inflicting punishment on drivers–which is always phrased in a very moralistic and high-toned way as getting them to “pay the true costs” (whatever those are, and I know at this point someone is going to let me know with perfect certainty) of driving–is a very popular one amongst many very vociferous people. I don’t happen to share this point of view (I rather like automobiles, although I don’t own one right now), and I’m not going to comment further on this particular point. But I stand by what I said first: public transportation in NYC is inexpensive, even with the raise. Let Mischa G’s friend start driving to work and will she ever get a financial surprise, with or without “they” performing municipal “encouragement.”

  8. Mischa G says:

    Regardless of whether at the end of the day, driving is more or less expensive than taking mass transport, the point is that by altering the ratio in favor of drivers is discouraging to those of us who use public transport. Obviously that reaction may not be sensible, but it isn’t a surprising reaction.

  9. Dan F says:


    On this one, Mischa G is correct. My plan is now to buy a 14-day Metrocard to replace my monthly card when it expires.

    Since I travel to places other than work, I’ll use a combination of $2 fare cards and my car to get around for the other weeks in the month; when I’m traveling less.


  1. […] for an interactive presentation about the fare hike proposals. MTA officials would discuss the new fare hike structure and field questions for thousands of riders sitting at their […]

  2. […] Benjamin Kabak takes a 30-day Metro Card challenge to see who the proposed subway and bus fare increase will help… and who it will hurt. Second Ave. Sagas […]

  3. […] hike as well, but Gov. Spitzer, ever mindful of those tourists in New York, decided he would rather screw over the regular commuters with a token gesture that keeps the base fare at $2 and didn’t really help his sagging […]

  4. […] of this politicking harkens back to a critique I leveled at then-Gov. Spitzer a few months ago and one that Marc Shepherd revisited in a comment on Sunday. Marc wrote: Recall […]

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