MTA working to capture more SIR revenueBy
As the MTA stares down the barrel of a financial crisis, the agency has, rightfully, adopted a new motto: no fare left behind. As tangible talk of a fare hike swirls, New York City Transit has already beefed up its fare-enforcement efforts, and now the authority is putting Staten Island on notice.
The Staten Island Railway is one of the quirkier aspects of the MTA’s transit network. It runs for 13 miles from the Staten Island Ferry terminal at St. George south to Tottenville. The railway features a daily ridership of around 17,000. And very few of them pay a fare.
The SIR, you see, only has fare-collection points at the ferry terminal and the Staten Island Yankees’ ballpark stop a few blocks away. Otherwise, the ride is free, and many riders enter and exit at Tompkinsville, a half-mile walk away from the ferry terminal.
But those halcyon days will soon be over. As CityRoom reported late last week, the MTA is set to introduce turnstiles at Tompkinsville too. Gone are the free rides. Jake Mooney has the details:
The Tompkinsville station is being renovated to install turnstiles, which means that come next summer, riders will have to pay to get off the train there, too. The closest free stop to the ferry would then be Stapleton, a little over a mile away, and whether people will get off and walk from there is an open question…
John G. Gaul, the chief officer of the railway, provided some background in an interview on Thursday about the decision to add fares at Tompkinsville — a decision that was not greeted too warmly this week.
First, Mr. Gaul said, the shift was motivated, “in large measure, but not totally,” by the desire to get $2 apiece from some of those people who are now getting off the train to avoid paying. That, he said, would yield about $661,000 more in annual revenue — about a 10 percent increase over the line’s current revenue.
Gaul goes on to explain how MetroCards rendered the SIR’s manual, on-board fare collection efforts moot. With the technological advances of the MTA, apparently, they could no longer collect tokens from the riders. Supervision dropped; crime rose; and now the MTA is, eleven years after introducing MetroCards, taking the time to address this problem.
The efforts at Tompkinsville — some HEETs and closed-circuit security cameras — are something of a test run for the rest of the Staten Island Railway. If it succeeds in capturing more revenue, the MTA may expand the pilot program down the line. The only catch is that these renovations are going to cost $6.8 million and result in just, as Mooney reported, an additional $661,000 a year. It’ll take a while for the revenue to pay for the renovations, let alone standard operating costs.
Of course, the riders are begrudgingly accepting of the MTA’s efforts to collect the proper fare, but some of them plan to walk the mile from Stapleton to the ferry. While I admire the exercise and effort at which people will go to avoid the fare, at some point, the $2 — or less with a pay-per-ride discount or Unlimited MetroCard — seems like less of an effort. People will do anything for a buck or two in New York City.